■ Matt McPherson / Columnist
In the 1980s and 1990s a focal point of crime, gang activity and drug use in Hemet was the notorious Timothy Lane, which was the warning cry of many concerned parents as the one street in Hemet you should never go down. In the mid 2000s the city attempted to remove the stigma associated with the crime-ridden area by purchasing multiple properties and renaming the street Mobley Lane. Once this didn’t seem to work, the city sought out a partnership with a developer that could help tackle the extremely blighted area and create a positive example of how with the right effort, the project could emerge as a success and a beacon for other areas to follow.
The grand opening celebration of the newly remodeled Greystone Apartments on the street recently changed from Mobley Lane to Greystone Avenue was celebrated Feb. 9 by officials from the city of Hemet and the Riverside Housing Development Corporation (RHD), in addition to eager new residents and community members. The street is beautifully landscaped with elegant black wrought iron fencing and gates wrapping around every structure down the street. New roofs and new paint emphasize the modern stucco theme, unifying all the units into a comfortable neighborhood feel the new residents can be proud of. On the inside all the units come with granite countertops, energy efficient appliances, space saving over-under washer and dryer, with new floors of tile, wood, and carpet throughout.
The project by Riverside Housing Development includes 41 units with one unit designated for property manager Lakesha R. Campbell and 40 units available for qualifying low-income tenants. Campbell was very informative and relayed the message of the affordable program, which is a tax credit program requiring tenants to earn at least twice the amount of the monthly rent. The different units come with varying rates of percentage based on a calculation of the applicant’s net wage. The range of 30 percent, 45 percent, and 50 percent calculations of the area of the units are analyzed and set by tax credits based on the tenant’s median income.
“The two-bedroom units are currently rented at a maximum of $600 a month and the three-bedroom units rent at a maximum of $683,” said Campbell. “Every year the county of Riverside will reassess the utility usage rates and adjust the rents accordingly. On years when utility usage/allowance rates are up, a reflection in decreased rents will result.”
Hemet Mayor Pro Tem Michael Perciful and City Manager Alex Meyerhoff attended the grand opening, claiming it was a great day for the city of Hemet. They explained Greystone Apartments is a shining example of a public/private partnership where the city used resources available to it under redevelopment. The city was able to find a great development partner in RHD, which was able to leverage the city’s limited finances in an attempt to eliminate blight within the community, said Meyerhoff.
“The project represents the city’s effort to engage in proactive public/private partnership to leverage limited public housing funds in close coordination and collaboration with the private sector,” said Meyerhoff.
Considering the city’s limited resources and minimal redevelopment funds, this partnership was extremely beneficial for everyone involved, especially the low income applicants. In fact the program is so successful that every unit is already rented out and a waiting list is growing.
“This project eliminates long standing blight within the community and creates quality and dignified workforce housing,” added Meyerhoff. “We can’t do it alone as a city; we have to have great partnerships with quality, reliable developers.”
RHD is restructuring and redeveloping many communities throughout Riverside County and has to date completed the remodeling of more than 600 units within the county. Unlike slumlords who usually live outside the community and only count on a rent check, RHD seriously invests in the communities with which it is engaged. It is an extremely reliable partnership that is a tremendous advantage to the workforce demographic and the community within downtown Hemet. In addition to the partnership between RHD and the city of Hemet, a development partnership with Wakeland Housing, financed through Citibank, brought this project to fruition.
Bruce Kulpa, CEO for RHD, spoke about the non-profit’s 25 year history in the county and initiating the partnership with Hemet in 2009. Bruce explained the project provides a variety of service enrichment including college education, resume building, and how to get employment.
“Projects like this are very stabilizing and beneficial to the community to uplift a household, and benefit the next generation tremendously,” said Kulpa.
Currently the city is emerging from a multi-year deficit and has only limited resources, so a successful partnership like this one with RHD can serve as a catalyst for similar neighborhood remodels and redevelopments throughout the valley. In fact, outside of the city limits south of Florida Avenue between Meridian and Stanford streets, the RHD is working with the county and has engaged in a similar project in buying up a majority of units on a street they changed from Marine Drive to Orange Blossom Lane. In addition to Greystone Apartments, Orange Blossom Apartments is a proactive development designed to escape the stigma associated with a previously crime-ridden street.
6th Generation in the Valley