Affordable housing cuts San Francisco commutes

Marin County project provides rental apartment homes for working families, reducing commuting and congestion

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In many communities in both the developed and developing world, there is an increasing disconnect between where people live and work. As a result, workers face ever longer commutes that increase congestion and pollution and lower residents' quality of life.

One answer is to build more affordable housing in locations where people work: a goal facilitated in Marin County, an affluent suburb north of San Francisco, by Citi Community Capital, the community development lending and investing arm of Citi.

EAH Housing, a non-profit affordable housing corporation, has partnered with Citi to build 24 rental apartment homes for working families in Marin County. The development, called Drake's Way, keeps cars off the road and promotes healthy lifestyles by allowing residents to live within walking distance of public transit, shops, offices, entertainment, parks and a child care center. Residents must earn at or below 50% of the area median income for Marin County, as defined by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is $56,500 for a family of four.

The challenges faced by house-hunters in Marin County are particularly acute. In June 2011, the median home price in Marin was over $800,000, well out of the range of many of the people who keep the county running and its residents safe, such as paramedics, emergency medical technicians, school teachers, nurses, social workers and police dispatchers.

Instead, many people in those essential professions are among the 60,000 people packing the county's roadways every weekday morning, driving to their jobs from across the nine-county region that makes up the Bay Area. At the same time, approximately 40,000 mostly higher-income Marin County residents leave the area heading for jobs in the city and elsewhere.

Citi Community Capital financed the Marin County project with a construction loan and a permanent, tax-exempt mortgage funded by the private purchase of a $9.1 million bond issue. Even though the deal proved challenging and the project came together just as the economy was falling into recession, Citi worked closely with the EAH Housing team to see the project through to completion.