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Affordable housing stretched thin in Turlock, statewide
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The Avena Bella low-income apartment complex could soon see an expansion, helping to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing in Turlock that exemplifies a statewide problem (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

Turlock is taking steps toward providing an adequate amount of affordable housing for low-income residents, but the city is following a statewide trend that’s seeing fewer options available for those who can’t keep up with inflating rent prices.

According to a study released Thursday by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition and California Housing, over one million affordable rental units would need to be constructed throughout the state in order to meet the needs of 1.3 million households classified as extremely low income. Currently, there are only 286,844 rental units in California considered affordable for the ELI population, or those with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of their area median income.

At the state level, Gov. Gavin Newsom has set a goal to build 3.5 million new homes in California by 2025, and advocates for affordable housing are urging the effort to be geared toward rental units for low-income families.

The City of Turlock recently “flipped” this eight-unit complex on A Street, and will partner with the United Samaritans Foundation to provide transitional housing for homeless and low-income families (ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal).

In Turlock, there are a variety of options that cater to these households, including Section 8 housing and subsidized apartment complexes, as well as low-income apartments that don’t have rental assistance but are still considered affordable, thanks to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.

According to Affordable Housing Online, a web database of affordable housing in towns throughout the country, 47.1 percent of households in Turlock are renters. About 53 percent of those who rent in Turlock are considered “rent overburdened,” meaning more than 30 percent of their gross income goes toward rent. A household making less than $3,227 a month would be considered overburdened when paying Turlock’s median monthly rent rate of $968.

There are seven low-income apartment complexes in Turlock currently, which contain about 660 affordable apartments for rent. All of these complexes have waiting lists, and the city’s apartment vacancy rate sits at around two percent. The Avena Bella apartment complex in south Turlock is the most recent to be constructed, and offers units for as low as $425 a month.

Assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development Maryn Pitt says that Turlock doesn’t have nearly enough affordable housing, though the problem seems to be receiving some attention. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Pitt gave an update on Phase Two of the Avena Bella complex, which would add an additional 60 units.

The project would be made possible through Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, allowing families who earn 60 percent or less of the city’s median income to live there at an affordable rate.

Currently, there are 500 families on the waitlist for the 60-unit expansion that has yet to break ground. If the City’s application for the tax credit program is approved, construction would begin sometime in June.

“The people that Avena Bella serves are working families. They could be anyone, from your office assistants to forklift drivers,” Pitt said. “There’s a great need — rent in Turlock is more expensive than rent in Modesto.”

In addition to low-income apartments like the Avena Bella complex, the City has recently partnered with the United Samaritans Foundation to offer transitional housing for the homeless in the form of a rehabilitated, eight-unit complex across from City Hall on A Street. The City has purchased other units around town for the same purpose, as well as for low-income families who may not necessarily be homeless.

Looking forward, Pitt said developers are eyeing Turlock as a potential home for future multifamily apartment complexes, which could provide more units for affordable housing and help ease the demand for units in town.

“Right now, everybody’s got a waiting list,” she said.