January 26, 2011 4:45 PM
Brooke Edwards

APPLE VALLEY • As redevelopment agencies across California fall under intense scrutiny, the town is eyeing new affordable housing projects to quickly spend millions in earmarked funds and ensure Apple Valley’s program is in compliance with state and federal laws.

Building affordable units half a mile from Town Hall and reviving a controversial plan to construct an 80-unit complex on Sequoia Road were among proposals from staff during a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“We have funds to expend and we need to expend those funds in a timely matter,” Economic Development Director Ken Henderson told the Town Council, with a polite frustration evident from staff over projects that have been shot down in the past.

The town has $19.5 million set aside for affordable housing, with state law dictating that cities accepting RDA tax increment use 20 percent to create homeownership opportunities.

That requires addressing needs for all populations. A staff report states 12.2 percent of Apple Valley’s residents fall into the extremely low-income category, 11.9 percent are in the low-income bracket and 17.6 percent are in the moderate income category — including an average teacher’s salary supporting a four-person household.

In 2009, a split council voted to contribute $2.25 million toward the Sequoia Road complex, which was to built by Housing Partners Inc. for seniors 62 and over with income 60 percent or below median levels — $31,200 for a two-person household. But when Housing Partners Inc. didn’t get approved for certain state funding, Council voted to terminate its involvement in the project.

Apple Valley made a recent Los Angeles Times list for having spent $700,000 in RDA money without creating a single unit of affordable housing. Now the State Controller’s office has started auditing how RDAs are spending incremental property tax revenues, as Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget threatens to do away with the agencies in order to close the state’s budget deficit.

The town’s first affordable project is moving forward, with the 34-unit Happy Trails Villas project slated to start construction in March. The condos on Kiowa Road along Highway 18 went into foreclosure before they were complete, and the town contributed $2.1 million in federal funds last year to help finish them as affordable, for-sale units.

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Brooke Edwards may be reached at (760) 955-5358 or at bedwards@VVDailyPress.com.