At least 1,740 people are living without a home in Ventura County, according to the county’s latest count, though officials suspect the actual number is much higher.
A new affordable-housing development proposed for a 2-acre site just outside of Camarillo city limits could help ease those numbers and provide low-cost options for people at risk of becoming homeless due to the area’s high cost of living in a down economy.
If approved for state funding, Rancho Sierra Apartments would provide 49 units of housing and behavioral health services for extremely low-income seniors 62 and older who have a mental health diagnosis, are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.
Derrick Wada, associate director of real estate development for Many Mansions, one of the groups heading the project, said it was conceptually approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in June and is in the land entitlement process. It is expected to return to the board in December for final approval.
Susan White Wood, housing manager for Ventura County Behavioral Health, said housing projects that target populations susceptible to homelessness are especially important now, when the county’s housing vacancy rate is less than 3.5%.
“As you can imagine, mental illness makes finding and keeping a home in this environment extremely challenging,” White Wood said.
In addition to the lack of available housing, she said, the rent in Ventura County, which averages $2,037 per month, is unaffordable for many.
The project site is a parcel of unincorporated Ventura County land just outside Camarillo city limits which neighbors Casa Pacifica Centers for Children & Families, RAIN Communities homeless shelter and Casa de Esperanza counseling center, organizations with initiatives similar to those of the proposed project.
“We feel that this project fits well within that community and provides a greater adhesive to bring all those different organizations together,” White Wood said.
According to project leaders, residents of the proposed development would have access to support services from the county’s behavioral health department, including health screenings, transportation assistance, peer counseling and community building events.
At the project’s helm are the Area Housing Authority of the County of Ventura and Many Mansions, a Thousand Oaks based nonprofit corporation that provides affordable housing throughout Ventura and Los Angeles counties.
According to plans, the complex off S. Lewis Road would include 49 one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom manager’s unit.
Organizers expect nearly half the units—24—to be paid for with funding from No Place Like Home, a statewide voter-approved initiative meant to put $2 billion in bond proceeds toward supportive housing for the unhoused in need of mental health services.
Other funds will come from conventional construction and permanent loans and additional state funding sources, said Juliana Gallardo, a property manager for Many Mansions.
Project leaders expect to bring the No Place Like Home funding application before the Board of Supervisors in December.
If the application is approved and the project is awarded the expected funds, the project could break ground in March 2022 and complete construction by July 2023, according to the project timeline.
Many Mansions, which owns or manages over 600 apartments at 20 properties across the county, will be responsible for property management. The nonprofit runs four apartment complexes geared toward mental health services in partnership with county behavioral health, according to project leaders.
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Article originally appeared in the Camarillo Acorn by Brooke Stanley