Kern County is facing a growing need for affordable housing solutions, and the newly-constructed Benton Park Cottages are ready to provide a home for 24 families. The apartments are unique in their affordability, with each unit designed to accommodate a family of five with rents ranging from $300 to $800. The Housing Authority of the County of Kern’s Executive Director, Steven Pelz, explains that the goal is to create more affordable housing in the area to make Kern County more accessible for everyone.
The Benton Park Cottages are designed to ensure that families do not face housing insecurity, allowing them to focus on other expenses instead of worrying about how they will pay their rent. This is a significant issue for those on fixed incomes, disabled individuals, and those earning minimum wage who can spend up to 75% of their income on rent. However, living in these apartments will reduce the percentage of income spent on rent to around 30%, making them genuinely affordable.
The Benton Park Cottages consist of 16 one-bedroom cottages and 8 three-bedroom cottages. Half of the units will be reserved for individuals enrolled in the “No Place Like Home” program, which helps fund the development of permanent housing for people with mental health issues who are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Affordable Housing Gets a Boost in Bakersfield with Benton Park Cottages
In addition to affordability, the cottages are equipped with solar panels to reduce utility bills, a community room, a management office, and a tenant laundry room. The development has received support from multiple entities, with PNC Real Estate investing $3 million in equity, the county providing a $2.5 million loan, and the state helping finance the development with a $2.1 million loan. Pacific Western Bank also loaned the project $1.4 million, and the housing authority contributed $365,000 of its own funds. KSA Group Architects, now part of Ordiz-Melby Architects, designed the community, and Wallace & Smith Contractors built it.
For future resident Shakeisha Ward and her family, moving into the Benton Park Cottages will be life-changing. Previously, the family had been considering leaving the state due to rising rental costs, but they decided to put their names on the Section 8 waiting list, and now they have the opportunity to move into the cottages. They will be able to save money on rent and start saving for a home of their own.
Although the project faced various challenges, including convincing neighbors that the development was a good idea and dealing with power supply issues, it has finally been completed. Pelz expects that an additional six affordable housing properties will become available to rent in the coming year, housing around 200 more families altogether. The chairman of the housing authority, Raju Jassar, praised the development as “another great project on an infill lot that otherwise would have sat here (empty) for decades.”
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