REAPing Benefits in Tulare County

This article spotlights two exemplary—even transformative—projects selected by the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG).

A majority of the $6.4 million in REAP 2.0 funds are being invested directly in affordable housing projects. This emphasis on housing illustrates one of the “soft” outcomes of the state’s REAP investment: regional governments—which have traditionally focused on transportation planning—are now much more active in working on and investing in the state’s housing objectives.

Leveraging A Special Partnership

The projects that TCAG selected to invest are informed by their special relationship with Self-Help Enterprises, a regional affordable housing developer. (We reported on an earlier collaboration in A Roundabout Way to Affordable Housing). SHE has helped 6,400 families build their own homes, rehabilitated over 6,800 unsafe homes, developed over 2,000 units of affordable rental housing, and helped provide reliable access to safe drinking water and sanitary sewer infrastructures for over 33,000 individuals in 160 small communities.

As a result of this partnership, TCAG was able to swiftly target two projects that would have a transformational effect within the communities of Farmersville and Goshen and make crucial transportation investments (often from Tulare’s local sales tax measure). This relationship prepared TCAG to act quickly with its REAP investment and target projects that were in the works but needed additional funding to get to the finish line.

A Neighborhood Village for the Unhoused

Among these REAP-supported projects is The Neighborhood Village in Goshen near Visalia. The first-of-its-kind development in California will provide permanent housing for 52 previously-homeless households. The project was developed by a Salt & Light Works in collaboration with Self-Help Enterprises. It features fully furnished modular homes with complete amenities inside. Outside there is an off-leash dog park, garden, common spaces, and an onsite coffee shop and market.

Salt & Light Works also provides onsite management and complete wraparound mental and physical health services, including wellness and financial literacy classes, job training, workforce development opportunities, support for substance dependence, and benefit and case management coordination.

TCAG contributed $2.8 million in REAP 2.0 funds to the final phase of the Village’s construction, which was just completed last month.

A Transit Hub to Connect Farmersville with High Speed Rail

A second investment in a multimodal hub highlights the flexibility that is built into the REAP program. One of the TCAG’s larger scale projects is the planned Cross Valley Corridor that would provide a high-frequency from the small east side cities all the way through Tulare, Visalia, and the military base in Lemoore (Kings County). This line also provides direct connection to the bisecting Amtrak San Joaquins service and, later, to High Speed Rail.

The transit center will serve as Farmersville’s link to this network. The hub will act as a transit center for Visalia Transit Bus lines that run through the community and provide a stop in the future Cross Valley Corridor. Phase 1 of the Corridor project has been funded with Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program (TIRCP) funds.

But TCAG is going further. It is also supporting high-density affordable housing projects near these transit centers. One example is the nearby 108-unit Los Arroyos project in Farmersville, also being developed by Self-Help Enterprises with support from TCAG. This project is located within walking distance of shopping, schools, and recreation. It includes a solar panel system that will offset the power used in the common area, residential loads, and community center, making Los Arroyos a grid neutral, zero net energy project. A vanpool program has also been offered in partnership with the California Vanpool Authority that will transport residents to surrounding job sites, farmlands, and packing houses.

TCAG has contributed $1.8 million in REAP funding for the transit hub to connect the residents in Farmersville to the Cross Valley Corridor Project. Additional funding includes $900,000 of Local Measure R funding and another $2.6 million from the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Fund.

The Trouble with Budget Cuts

These projects are well underway. The challenge lies with the proposed budget cuts and the corresponding limits HCD has put on how much funding can be drawn under the program. The Neighborhood Village has been completed, yet it must continue to pay on loans. TCAG’s strategy was to use the funds on projects that were in the works but just needed the final funding to be completed. Unfortunately, the developers who relied on those funds are in a difficult situation.

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