LIVE OAK – Standing in front of a small gathering on a bulldozed dirt lot off East Cliff Drive, MidPen Housing President and CEO Matt Franklin observed that, like many good simple ideas, Real estate developments can be “remarkably difficult”.

  • With the buildings that will house the Dientes Community Dental Clinics, top left, and, top right, the nearby Santa Cruz Community Health Centers, the footprint of MidPen’s 1500 Capitola Road housing project started construction. (Shmuel Thaler – Sentinel of Santa Cruz)

  • Bogard Construction employees attend the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday.  (Shmuel Thaler --...

    Bogard Construction employees attend the groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday. (Shmuel Thaler – Sentinel of Santa Cruz)

  • Home to Don Lane in Santa Cruz County, a former town of...

    Santa Cruz County’s Don Lane, former mayor of the City of Santa Cruz, speaks Wednesday during the groundbreaking ceremony for MidPen Housing’s 1500 Capitola Road housing project. (Shmuel Thaler – Sentinel of Santa Cruz)

Franklin told his audience on Wednesday that he was sitting in what will become the future 57-unit parking lot. 1500 Capitol Road family housing project within two years. The Capitola Road site was a former Santa Cruz County Redevelopment Agency property that was sold by Santa Cruz County to MidPen, a nonprofit developer specializing in building affordable housing. On the same property, the construction of the “phase one” of the project for a community dental clinic in Dientes and a community health center in Santa Cruz is well advanced, with a goal of inauguration in October for the health center. The overall project has been in preparation since 2017.

“In the community outreach meetings that we held for this property, it’s a redevelopment property, we heard over and over again from the community that they really wanted it to be a center, a downtown, a center community,” Santa Cruz County 1st District Supervisor Manu Koenig said. “And you can’t have a community without housing. That’s why it’s so fantastic to innovate on this project today.

“If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, I think we’ve learned that the connection between housing and health care is indisputable,” said Jenny Panetta, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Housing Authority. . “That both are absolutely necessary for the prosperity of any individual, of any community.”

Projector changes

The groundbreaking for the housing project comes in a month when affordable housing takes center stage, both in a practical sense and because housing advocates have dubbed May Affordable Housing Month.

Real estate investment analyst Stessa calculated the Santa Cruz County median rent at $3,212, up from $2,628 in 2019, a 22% increase in three years. Median rent is the midpoint of rents. This information is in accordance with the company recently published report, drawing inspiration from the real estate search engine Zillow, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and the US Census Bureau. Stessa calculated that the large Santa Cruz metro had the 15th highest rent increase of any small US metro. Meanwhile, nationally, rents have increased by 12.5% ​​or about $161 from 2019 to 2022, according to Stessa’s research.

Online residential rental listings marketplace Dwellsy went further by calculating that Median one-month rent increase in Santa Cruz of $200 from March to April of this year made the city the most expensive rental market in the country. The Los Altos-based company, which relies on landlord listings to compile its data, estimated the median price of rent in Santa Cruz in April at $3,200.

Market challenges affordability options

In the future three-story Capitola Road apartment complex, 26 units will be one-bedroom, 15 will be two-bedroom and 16 will be three-bedroom. On-site services will include case management, connection to community resources, employment readiness, exercise and nutrition support, independent living skills, financial literacy classes and counseling services. adult education. Tenants will be those with an income between 30% and 80% of the area’s median income, aided by 40 housing benefit vouchers from the Housing Authority. In addition, 15 units will be reserved for people who were previously homeless.

All units in the housing project will be equipped with energy-efficient electric stoves, electric heat-pump water heaters, and electric heating and cooling, thanks to a $142,500 grant from the Central Coast New Build Electrification Program Community Energy.

Affordable housing issues are among the top concerns of Santa Cruz County residents, a topic repeatedly raised by candidates at a recent primary election forum. Santa Cruz County Supervisor’s 3rd District candidate Justin Cummings, a Beach Flats neighborhood tenant who has a doctorate in environmental studies, told voters Thursday night he couldn’t afford the rent for some of the units at the city’s market rate, like those that go for $2,800 a month in the Five55 Pacific Avenue luxury apartment complex.

According to a report released last week by the California Housing Partnership, tenants in Santa Cruz County must earn $48.08 an hour, or 3.2 times the state minimum wage, to pay the average monthly rent. of $2,500. The “California Affordable Housing Needs Report 2022estimated that state and federal funding for housing production and preservation in Santa Cruz County was $19 million in 2021, down 48% from the previous year.

Legislators focus on needs

At the candidates’ forum, Cummings defended his decision to vote against some housing projects before the Santa Cruz City Council, saying he was looking to fend off market-rate developers in order to get additional affordable housing. Opponent Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, also a Santa Cruz council member and supervisory candidate, bragged to the public Thursday night at the Paradox Hotel that she “voted 100% for housing in Santa Cruz “. The third candidate, Ami Chen Mills, said if elected she would seek to declare a “housing emergency” for the county, while Cummings said he would seek to increase the percentage of affordable units required in the county. new housing estates by 15% to 20% and “knocking on the state’s door” for funds to support mandated housing growth plans. Kalantari-Johnson said she would look for ways to accelerate development projects. fully affordable housing and relaxing in-law unit permit requirements.

The Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments is developing its latest update to the Regional Housing Needs Assessment plan for Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. Each region’s governing body allocates a state-defined number of aggregate affordable housing units needed for the region to each city and county. A draft planavailable at in the midst of a 45-day public comment period, until June 6. The Santa Cruz housing advocacy group YIMBY, along with Housing Santa Cruz County and other funders, will host a virtual event titled “The Plan for More Affordable Housing: Influencing the Housing Element Process,” at 4 p.m. Wednesday, with registration at A full list of Affordable Housing Month events is available online at

The 1500 Capitola Road project isn’t the only development to celebrate a first breakthrough this month. The City of Santa Cruz will host a groundbreaking event next week for two of its upcoming affordable housing projects. the South Pacific Station project, a seven-story mixed-use project with 70 low-income apartments, will replace three commercial buildings at 818, 820, 822 Pacific Ave. and 325, 329 Front St. Le Cedar Street Apartmentswhich will be located at 524, 532, 538 Center Street, will feature 65 supportive residential units above commercial retail space and a public paseo in the Calvary Church parking lot.

In addition, on May 25, Eden Housing is opening 53 affordable apartments for its housing project on vacant land in 1482 Liberty Boulevard in Watsonville.