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Third try for Casa Grande rehab
A developer is hoping the third time's the charm to rehabilitate one of the oldest and largest low-income apartment complexes in Ceres.

Efforts to upgrade Casa Grande Apartments, located at Whitmore Avenue and Della Drive, have twice been unsuccessful due to inability to secure funding. A company representative came before the Ceres City Council on Monday for the third hearing to discuss federal financing. City officials hosted a host jurisdiction public hearing regarding the issuance of $11 million of tax-exempt private activity bonds for the project. The council was also asked to set in motion local approval of the issuance of multi-family housing revenue bonds which are issued by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority.

In 2009 Intercontinental Affordable Housing of Santa Ana planned to submit an application with the state for funding but backed off because of the soft bond market.

Jey Samuel, vice president of Intercontinental Affordable Housing of Santa Ana, said his company is buying the complex from Willow Apartments, LP. His company wants to rehabilitate the 100 existing units built in 1971 as well as add 34 more units. In March the Ceres Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for the addition.

According to Bryan Briggs, redevelopment and economic development manager with the city of Ceres, Intercontinental seeks to raise the capital from three funding sources: state bonds, tax credits and funds from the Ceres Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Briggs said the developer is expected to ask the CRA for $2.5 million for "gap financing," which most likely will be in the form of a loan but could conceivably be a grant.

Mayor Anthony Cannella took great lengths to ensure that City Council approval of the state and federal process was not approval of CRA assistance. Cannella said "it almost implies we're going to do everything possible to make this successful." Cannella voiced his concern that the process seemed backwards, saying it makes more sense to first ask the CRA to approve funding since the gag financing appears to be necessary to make the financial package complete in order to do construction.

"It's risky...we may say no," Cannella admonished Samuel. "We haven't seen a project, we haven't seen any plans."

The CRA has a pot of money called "housing set aside" which could be used for the project. State law mandates that 20 percent of the revenue received by a redevelopment agency be set aside for affordable housing.

The council approved the company seeking the bonds only as a matter of formality for IRS purposes. The city, however, is not on the hook for repayment of the debt should it become successful.

Briggs said that the facility is in need of upgrades since there has been "considerable deferred maintenance."