BEN LOMOND — State officials announced Friday that Santa Cruz County received a second Project Homekey award, in the form of a $10.7 million grant to build a 36-unit apartment building with services support for Soquel.

Imane Novin

Property owner Novin Development will use factory-made modular building materials to meet a state-mandated accelerated 12-month construction deadline. The housing project, baptized “Haven Park Squareis designed for people coming out of homelessness, with ongoing support service programs in place.

At a press conference on Friday, Iman Novin, president of Novin Development, thanked elected leaders, including Santa Cruz County 1st District Supervisor Manu Koenig, whose district includes the new development site, for their support.

“It’s a basic human need – food, water, shelter,” Novin said. “When I think back to why I do this job, it was transformational for us as a family, when we built our first home in Scotts Valley, to have those roots established and not have to change districts. school all the time. Housing is such an important thing, it touches every aspect of our lives.

Lourdes Mr. Castro Ramírez, secretary of the California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, announced the new award on Friday after leading a panel discussion with invited elected officials and community members curated at the first winner of the 20-unit Homekey county project, the Veterans Village in Ben Lomond. Castro Ramírez was gathering general information on the state of housing needs and homelessness in Santa Cruz County and also heard from veterans living there.

A 36-unit development to house formerly homeless people is planned for three vacant lots at 2838 Park Ave.  in Soquel, not far from the Park Avenue exit of Highway 1. (Jessica A. York - Sentinel of Santa Cruz)
A 36-unit development to house formerly homeless people is planned for three vacant lots at 2838 Park Ave. in Soquel, not far from the Park Avenue exit of Highway 1. (Jessica A. York – Sentinel of Santa Cruz)

The new Soquel project is the second of four housing development applications submitted by Santa Cruz County as part of the state’s second round of Homekey funding. Some 50 proposed projects across the state remained “in the pipeline” at the end of the last funding round and are competitively eligible for a third round of $1.3 billion in funding that opens July 1. , said Castro Ramírez. The remaining local applications include the Housing Matters apartment building on River Street in Santa Cruz and the redevelopment of the Rodeway Inn in Watsonville from a COVID-19 shelter to permanent housing.

Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Scotts Valley, said state lawmakers are regularly asked to explain what is being done to address homelessness since Governor Gavin Newsom announced his commitment to the issue after his election. The county’s two Homekey project recipients are “absolutely essential to taking the steps necessary to serve the people of Santa Cruz County,” Stone said.

” This is what we do. In Santa Cruz County…over $220 million has come in to help us solve this problem,” Stone said at Friday’s press conference.

“I remind mayors of big cities and I remind my colleagues in those big cities that the highest per capita homelessness is here,” Stone added. “There are many reasons for this, but you can’t forget the small, rural counties when you’re making these large investments in California. $220 million in Santa Cruz is a big help. More is needed, as you all know, but hopefully there will be more to come.

The plans for the Soquel property, at 2838 Park Ave. have the project set back from the road behind a shopping complex at 2840 Park Ave. The site is currently located on three vacant woodlots, zoned commercial. One of the parcels, a protected riparian corridor, will remain undeveloped, Novin said. The property is bordered by Cabrillo College Drive, near the on- and off-ramps of Highway 1 and only half a dozen blocks from the Aptos campus of Cabrillo College.

Unlike other applications proposed for the Homekey project, neighbors were quick to express their organized opposition to the site plans. A representative from the Soquel Aptos Community Response Homekey Group said members were still formulating their response to Friday’s announcement and were not yet ready to comment.

The developer announced a public meeting later this month to hear concerns and questions from the community.

Koenig called the latest Homekey award significant, noting that operating existing county shelters alone is already very difficult and expensive.

“This state money really represents a kind of watershed moment, where we’re able to make significant investments in housing — the kind that we haven’t done before,” Koenig said. “So it’s really huge. It’s the extra mile it takes to get us there.

Koenig said the board of supervisors made a commitment more than a year ago to create 120 additional affordable housing units in the unincorporated area. With the two Project Homekey projects, the county was nearly 50% of the way to its goal. He said for some, however, such projects “can be scary for neighbors.”

“Very often people associate homelessness with the symptoms of the problem – the tents and the litter we see on the street,” Koenig said. “But don’t confuse that with the cure, which is housing. Because we see over and over again, from experience, that when we provide this housing for people, when we invest in people, they are able to invest in themselves and change their own sense of identity and start to give back to their community.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO

What: Park Haven Plaza Community Meeting.

When: 6-8 p.m., June 27.

Where: Erica Schilling Room at Cabrillo College in Building 450. Free parking in lots A/B.

Virtual: us06web.zoom.us/j/82998607497.