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Affordable Micro Unit Development Begins Construction


Source: Pasadena Weekly

By Luke Netzley

Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor

Pasadena real estate development firm Community Builders Group has started construction on 180 affordable micro units at 280 N. Oakland Avenue in Pasadena.

It’s slated for completion in spring 2023.

The project is targeted to entry-level workers earning 30% to 60% of area median income and seeking modern, affordable housing near jobs and public transit.

“Pasadena is our home base, and at this moment in time the housing crisis is evident and it’s important to us that we use our skills in a way that benefits our local community. We feel that’s where we can make the biggest impact,” CBG co-founder Christian Hart said.

While the name “micro unit” suggests a small living area within the development, the units come with bathrooms, kitchens, and balconies as well as access to several shared spaces throughout the property, including a rooftop deck, atrium and gym. There will also be programs such as yoga classes, guided meditation, and movie nights to give residents the opportunity to come together and form a tightknit community.

Market research suggests that Pasadena Studios tenants will likely be either newcomers to Pasadena looking to grow their income and start a family, those who live in another community but commute to Pasadena for work, or residents who are lifelong Pasadena residents but struggling to pay rent due to rising prices.

The cost of rent that the tenants will pay is determined by whether they fall into the 30%, 50%, or 60% area median income level, but will ultimately be far lower than the market rate regardless of which category they’re in.

“Giving people a place to live that’s affordable, where they’re not spending 50% of their income on rent, allows them to have a lifestyle that can help benefit the community,” CBG co-founder Joe Seager described about the project. “That extra money is able to be used in the economy and create jobs. It has a lot of impact, not just for the residents that are fortunate enough to be able to live here, but also in the community because people are living and working in the same city where they’re spending their revenue.”

“It’s a win-win for the city,” Hart added. “A resident that’s able to stay in town to work and live can then spend money in their neighborhood, which helps small businesses. Coming out of the pandemic, small businesses have been wrecked. We feel that this is another opportunity to further facilitate their recovery.”

Pasadena Studios is a collaboration between CBG and Bridge Financial Advisors, a real estate development and advisory firm, and has been funded by tax exempt bonds and low-income housing tax credits at no cost to the city of Pasadena. Hart and Seager also worked closely with Councilmember John Kennedy, Mayor Victor Gordo, and David Reyes from the city of Pasadena to ensure that the project was completed without any soft funds from the city.

“We’re using tax-exempt bonds from the state and the tax credits from the federal government so that we’re able to build at a very reasonable cost without requiring the city to put any money in. And that’s where we feel there’s a benefit not just to the residents, but also in the tax money coming back into the city,” Seager said.

“We’re so lucky to be working with partners like the city of Pasadena, and to do it in our backyard where we can have this pronounced impact. It was a combination of factors that really helped all of us,” Hart explained.

Hart and Seager founded Community Builders Group from an office on Lake Avenue in 1999 with the mission to provide quality housing for underserved communities and use their development projects to elevate neighborhoods through community-oriented design.

“We want to use these next 10 years to structure deals that have affordable and market rate components because it really creates a viable opportunity for people to live in their local neighborhoods where they can utilize those resources, work close to home, send their children to school, and be able to be present for their children and their families. That has meaning for us and that’s what we want to accomplish.”