Construction is about to begin on a 150-unit apartment building for low-income seniors in the downtown Sacramento Railyards, an incremental but significant step in addressing the city’s severe housing affordability crisis.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg and other local leaders ceremoniously broke ground Monday on the Wong Center Senior Apartments at Seventh and F streets. The $53 million project is the second major housing development being built in the Railyards, the long-vacant 240-acre plot of land that once served as the western terminus for the Transcontinental Railroad.
Sacramento needs to build more than 16,000 housing units this decade for low and very-low income residents, according to a 2020 analysis by the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. Several affordable housing projects have opened recently or are under construction in the city, but a significant gap remains. A bi-annual census of Sacramento’s homeless population was scheduled to be released Tuesday and was expected to show a large increase in the number of people living on the streets.
Meeting the need of residents seeking affordable housing is “a huge lift, but it is not impossible,” Steinberg said.
“This won’t solve everything, but 150 units for vulnerable seniors, for low-income seniors is something we ought to be very proud of and something that we ought to recommit to doing over and over and over again,” the mayor said. “It meets a tremendous need.”
The Wong Center will have 135 one-bedroom units and 15 two-bedroom apartments. Residents 55 and older who earn between 40% and 60% of the Sacramento County median income are eligible for residency; the median household income in 2020 was about $71,000. The project is expected to be finished in early 2024.
Steinberg has advocated for a stable and ongoing funding source for affordable housing in Sacramento, including floating the idea of a special tax district in the central city where a portion of tax revenue would fund housing and infrastructure.
“We have increased our trend significantly over the last couple of years (of funding affordable housing),” the mayor said. “The key challenge for us is finding local funding sources to match the new amounts of federal and state money.”
Mutual Housing California, the nonprofit developer of the Wong Center, has proposed tearing down a state-owned warehouse on R Street to build a 240-unit affordable housing building marketed to artists. The Capitol Area Development Authority is leading the construction of a 58-unit affordable housing building at 13th and O streets.
And two blocks from the Wong Center, construction is well underway on the A.J., a 345-unit residential building with dozens of affordable units. Denton Kelley, managing principal of Downtown Railyard Ventures, the Railyards’ lead developer, said it was significant that the city’s largest infill development project is “leading with affordable housing.”
It’s taken decades, but momentum is finally building in the Railyards.
The A.J. is expected to open later this year. Construction should start next year on a 432-unit rental apartment complex called the Telegrapher, Kelley said. A new 17-story Sacramento Superior Courthouse is under construction a few blocks away.
Sacramento Republic FC has proposed building a stadium in the Railyards seating up to 15,000 fans. Kelley said his company expects to start work on a new entertainment venue at the historic central shops in the Railyards next year.
“It’s housing, it’s the beautiful courthouse, it’s going to be soccer, it’s going to be live entertainment,” the mayor said. “And you can see it now, finally after how many decades? Before our very eyes, the transformation is just beginning.”
This story was originally published June 27, 2022 1:28 PM.