Linda Mandolini, president of Eden Housing, talks during a ground-breaking ceremony for a 54-unit apartment complex at 1482 Freedom Blvd. on Wednesday, the former site of River Nursery. —photo by Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE—A large crowd of nonprofit, city and county officials gathered Wednesday to break ground on a development on Freedom Boulevard that will house 53 low-income families.

“I’m pleased we’re able to offer affordable housing here to fulfill Watsonville’s downtown specific plan, to provide a range of housing that supports our city’s socio-economic interests,” said Watsonville Mayor Ari Parker.

The development at 1482 Freedom Blvd. is expected to be completed by Fall 2023. The site formerly held River Nursery & Flower Shop.

Half of the units will go to farmworker families, and it will also serve homeless people, and those with developmental disabilities. 

It is slated for people earning between 25% to 50% of the area median income.

The project will offer a mix of one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, and includes environmentally friendly features such as solar panels over carports, low-flow water fixtures, Energy Star appliances and indoor bike parking. 

It will also include a computer room, a community room, laundry facilities and an outdoor barbecue and play area. 

One of the units will be set aside for a live-in community manager, and a resident services coordinator will provide wellness, career, education and financial services.

The project is one of the County’s first that comes thanks to Senate Bill 35, a 2018 law that streamlines housing developments for low-income families, said Eden Housing President Linda Mandolini.

Mandolini said the project is also made possible by the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which gives housing agencies $8 billion annually for developments serving low-income families and helps produce 50,000 units per year nationwide.

In addition, it received $5 million from the State Joe Serna, Jr. Farmworker Housing Grant Program.

“We are so excited about this particular project,” said Housing Santa Cruz County Governing Board Chair Don Lane. “It is right on target in terms of meeting the needs of local workers and local families right here in this community.”

Rayne Pérez of Housing Authority Santa Cruz County says the organization provided 37 housing vouchers to the project, which she said helped make it possible.

“When we commit vouchers to a specific development like this one at 1482 Freedom, it helps developers to support tax credits and other financing,” she said. “It deepens the affordability of housing to include extremely low income families and ultimately helps all the projects pencil out.”

Since its inception a half-century ago, Bay Area-based Eden Housing has developed more than 10,000 affordable homes.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA.


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