2007 MFE Awards
Project of the Year: Affordable

Simpson Housing Solutions was determined to bring much-needed affordable senior housing to California's Orange County. So determined, in fact, that the developer took an incredible leap of faith and purchased the land for Dorado Senior Apartments more than a year before securing low-income tax credits to finance the project. “That is not a risk we usually take, but when you are working in high-end infill areas, this is usually what you have to do because land is so valuable and so scarce that a seller can dictate the terms of how and when they are going to sell it,” says Mike Costa, president of the Long Beach, Calif.-based firm.

Costa and his team felt confident that the project would financially pencil out—and their intuition proved correct. They had already won the support of the city, which eagerly awaited the redevelopment of the former strip center, though officials needed a bit of convincing that affordable housing was the way to go. Simpson Housing ultimately secured the multiple sources of public/private funding needed to offer extremely low rents—$674.25 per month on average—in one of the country's most expensive housing markets (the median home price is $635,000). Major financing sources for the $28.3 million project included $17.3 million in tax-credit equity and $1.2 million each from the City of Buena Park RDA and the Orange County Housing and Community Development Department.

The finished product wowed residents and neighbors alike. The 150-unit building looks anything but affordable, though it's home to renters 55 and older, who earn 30 percent to 60 percent of the area median income. “We believe strongly that through tax-credit programs, you can develop market-rate quality product that is affordable,” Costa says. The Mediterranean-style design by architect firm KTGY Group fits right in with the neighboring community, while a warm color palette, carefully planned arches and entryways, and lower roof forms help create a strong curb appeal.

The property's interior is just as inviting with a host of in-unit and community amenities such as balconies and patios, on-site education and art programs, and recreational activities. And for the more adventurous seniors, Knott's Berry Farm amusement park is just a few blocks away.

Fast Facts

  • Developer: Simpson Housing Solutions
  • Architect: KTGY Group
  • Opened: October 2006
  • Units: 150
  • Unit Mix: One- and two-bedrooms
  • Prices: $674.25 on average
    Judge's Verdict

    “SIMPSON HOUSING'S VISION AND PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE IS CLEARLY DEMONSTRATED IN THIS PROJECT. THE LAND PLANNING, BEAUTIFUL ARCHITECTURE, AND THOUGHTFULLY DESIGNED LIVING SPACES RESULTED IN AN EXCEPTIONALLY WELL-EXECUTED DEVELOPMENT. TAKING CONSIDERABLE RISK, THEY CREATED A WONDERFUL LIVING ENVIRONMENT FOR THE SENIORS WHO MAKE THIS COMMUNITY THEIR HOME.”

    —Julie Smith, president, Bozzuto Management Co.