Blending into its Sacramento neighborhood was always the goal for North Avenue Apartments, an 80-unit affordable housing project. Accomplishing that feat took some design creativity.

Long Beach, Calif.-based Simpson Housing Solutions told its architect, Irvine, Calif.-based KTGY Group, that the project had to offer coveted three-bedroom apartments—a rarity, but an increasing necessity in California—but also had to fit into the neighborhood.

The architectural firm's answer: townhomes.

“We decided to do townhouses along North Avenue,” says Manny Gonzalez, who designed the project for KTGY. “Two-story buildings blend better in a neighborhood and screen the three-story building (apartments) behind it.”

Simpson President Michael Costa says the idea helped the project fit in.

“The entire front of the project is townhouses, which is a much more expensive unit, but it really gives it a very high-end, non-affordable look,” Costa says. “We are always trying to develop our affordable housing at a level where a drive-by would not depict it as affordable housing.”

But it is. North Avenue Apartments is being renting to residents who earn between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income. Residents will pay monthly rents from $313 to $755 for a two-bedroom apartment and $355 to $865 for three bedrooms, Costa says.

The project was financed with $10.2 million in federal low-income housing tax credits, $525,000 from the Sacramento Housing Redevelopment agency, and a $10.9 million construction loan from Wells Fargo Bank.

Costa says the stark need made the four-year effort worth it. The project was 50 percent leased when the first units opened in April.

  • Simpson Housing Solutions has broken ground on Townparc at Amarillo, a 144-unit affordable family community in Amarillo, Texas. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units will be set aside for households earning 30 percent to 60 percent of the area median income. Amenities will include a clubhouse, pool and spa, computer center, and volleyball court. The community is expected to open in September.
  • The Philadelphia Housing Authority is building Nellie Reynolds Gardens, a 64-unit senior housing community in Philadelphia. The $20 million project, located across the street from one of the authority's oldest sites called Johnson Homes, will feature one- and two-bedroom units and a senior center on the ground floor. The three-story community is expected to be completed in December 2008.
  • Opus Northwest has broken ground on Park East Lofts, a mixed-use community in St. Louis with 52 loft-style condo units, street frontage retail space, and public parking on the building's first two levels and resident parking on the third level. The studios and one- and two-bedroom units, which range from $220,000 to $690,000, feature high ceilings, open floor plans, and expansive glass areas. The building is designed in a U shape, creating a pool, outdoor spa, grilling and fire pit, and gathering spots.
  • Walters Group has broken ground on Stafford Park, a long-planned mixed-use project located on a 320-acre site in southern New Jersey's Pinelands region. The development will include a 650,000-square-foot retail complex anchored by Target; 667 housing units; 25,000 square feet of office space including the municipal public works facilities; a recreation area with a 66,000-square-foot twin ice skating rink; and a pedestrian-friendly Main Street with outdoor seating. Every building in the development will be LEED certified.
  • Jamboree Housing Corp. is developing Monarch Pointe Apartment Homes, a 63-unit affordable housing community in Anaheim, Calif. The one-, two-, and three-bedroom units will feature Energy Star appliances, carpeting, and computer and cable access. The developer's Housing with HEART program will provide residents with services including after-school tutoring, ESL, computer training, and financial literary classes. The project is part of the city's central Anaheim neighborhood revitalization efforts.