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Avena Bella grand opening celebrates Citys effort to help low-income families
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Avena Bella representatives, tenants and City of Turlock officials join together for the official ribbon cutting of the new affordable housing complex which provides 80 energy-efficient apartments for low-income families. - photo by CARA HALLAM/The Journal

Local officials and new tenants of Turlock’s newest affordable housing complex Avena Bella joined together for the official ribbon cutting ceremony held on Thursday, celebrating the conclusion of the four-year process to bring quality housing to low-income families.

“This is an exciting moment for the City of Turlock, and another jewel to add to our crown,” said Mayor John Lazar. “Avena Bella is an exemplary example of what can be accomplished when public-private partnerships come together and create opportunities for families to get ahead.”

The multifamily affordable community for low-income families features 80 apartments in eight Mediterranean-themed buildings. Rents at Avena Bella are based on household size and income, ranging from $317 to $736 for a two-bedroom apartment, to $374 to $858 for a three-bedroom. The community also features a community center, community garden, play area, technology lounge, swimming pool, and landscaped walkways between each building.

“It’s our privilege to develop a community that will transform lives for the better,” said Mary Murtagh, EAH Housing President and CEO. “We’re thankful to work with the City and our many partners to make a difference, to provide housing and hope.”

In just the short amount of time that Avena Bella has been open to residents, Murtagh’s hope to help improve lives for the better has already come to fruition, as new tenant Nicole Esparza shared the difference the community has made in her own life.

“My children now have a safe place to live,” said Esparza. “I love our apartment and the space here, being able to look out our window and see the mountains in the distance. Thank you to everyone who made this a possibility and for this opportunity for my family.”

Murtagh shared that since the beginning of the project four years ago, the City never doubted their reason for wanting to build an affordable community for low-income families.

“The City of Turlock and the Council want to support the families in our community, and make affordable housing a possibility,” said City Manager Roy Wasden. “As I think about the children here, it’s true that the environment they grow up in will help shape who they become. Affordable doesn’t mean it can’t be top quality, and that’s what we needed here.”

Built with sustainability in mind, Avena Bella is slated to be LEED Certified and GreenPoint Rated. The community features solar power, energy-efficient heat pumps for heating and cooling, and a continuously running energy recovery ventilation system that brings in fresh, filtered outside air from the nearby highway.

Additionally, the community features generous amounts of open space, including a large central grass field and play area, with strategically placed trees to help provide shade in indoor and outdoor spaces. The storm water retention system captures all the rainwater on site, helping water the landscaping at Avena Bella, which features all California native plants with the exception of some fruit trees.

“Today is emotional thinking of all the lives we’ve been able to touch,” said Assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development Maryn Pitt. “It makes all the efforts worth it, and it really was a team effort. We were never at a point where the team wasn’t all together, and we’ll continue to work together to make sure the next phase is fully funded.”

Financial participants for the project included Chase Community Development Banking, the City of Turlock, the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program, and the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee. In addition, Enterprise Community Partners serves as the equity syndicator, with JP Morgan Capital Corporation as the equity partner and upper tier investor.

"Avena Bella is a significant addition to Turlock by EAH Housing, known for their commitment to building sustainable properties, providing quality property management, and offering resource coordination services such as financial workshops, afterschool activities, and enrichment classes,” said Enterprise Community Investment Vice President Phillip Porter. “Enterprise is pleased to continue our support of EAH Housing.”

 Chase Community Development Banking Vice President Paul Carney also believed in the vision of Avena Bella, saying that Chase believes in “creating partnerships that generate jobs and promote progress and housing opportunities” that “improve the quality of life for so many people.”

According to EAH and the City of Turlock, once funding can be secured, the second phase of Avena Bella is anticipated to add 61 more apartments to the complex to help serve even more low-income families.

Avena Bella is located at 500 West Linwood Avenue.