Rural is where it's at if you're considering affordable housing projects, according to Simpson Housing Solutions, which is using federal tax credits to build affordable apartments throughout California.

Among its newest projects: Orchard View Apartments in the Imperial Valley town of Holtville, Calif. The Long Beach, Calif.-based developer found that there is so little affordable housing in Holtville that the 81 rental units are being snatched up quickly by residents earning between 30 percent and 60 percent of the area median income.

Simpson Housing Solutions

"Being a major player in the affordable housing arena, we began to look at opportunities in the rural areas of the state," says Simpson president Michael A. Costa. "What we found was an incredible pent-up demand for housing, especially affordable housing."

If they move to Orchard View, residents will feel at home, say officials from Maple Dell + McClelland Architects, based in Solana Beach, Calif. The firm has designed prototype housing for Simpson projects, including Orchard View.

"We try real hard to make sure the end result is durable, pleasant, and easy to maintain from an owner's perspective," says architect John Maple. "We try to put ourselves in the place of the owner and the occupants. We put in community areas and barbecues so there is a sense of community ... and home."

The technique is paying off for households in need of better living situations. "You find families are doubling and tripling up in single-family homes," says Moe Mohanna, senior vice president of Simpson Housing Solutions. "These are working, contributing families, and if city officials take action, they know they will put these families out on the streets."

–Erin Massey