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Alora project in San Marcos
A rendering of the $40 million, 100-unit Alora affordable housing project, which will replace the old Mariposa community. Rendering courtesy of Dahlin Group Architecture
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San Marcos continues affordable housing push with Alora project

SAN MARCOS — A new affordable housing development will be coming to San Marcos next year that is expected to provide housing for 100 low-income residents and families.

On Tuesday, developers, along with city and county personnel, held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the Alora project located at 604 Richmar Avenue.

The complex, which will cost $40 million to build and likely won’t be completed until the summer of 2023, is a collaborative partnership between San Diego County, City of San Marcos and Affirmed Housing, a San Diego-based land developer that specializes in affordable housing.

“The City of San Marcos has invested more than $160 million in the Richmar area alone to provide affordable housing, infrastructure and recreational facilities to this part of our community,” said Mayor Rebecca Jones.

“With partners like Affirmed Housing, we’re committed to continuing the efforts that not only change the lives of individuals and hard-working families but also the entire community. I’d like to thank all of our Alora partners for helping people dream, strive and thrive — because, without them, we wouldn’t be this successful.”

Alora project in San Marcos
A rendering of the 100-unit Alora project, which will replace the old Mariposa community. Rendering courtesy of Dahlin Group Architecture

The Alora project will replace the old Mariposa 71-unit affordable housing community that was previously at the Richmar Avenue location, and which was recently demolished to make way for the new development, according to San Marcos City Manager Jack Griffin.

The Mariposa complex, which was built in the 1990s, had reached the end of its life cycle and needed to be replaced, Griffin said, and by completely starting afresh, the developers will have the opportunity to provide more housing than was previously possible at the site. 

The Alora complex will consist of four three-story buildings supplying a total of 100 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for families earning 30% to 80% of area median income, according to a county press release on the project. The apartment project will also have laundry rooms, a pool, community room, tot lots and 171 parking spaces.

“The project is split into two phases,” according to Mellody Lock, director of development at Affirmed Housing. “The first phase involved the demolition of the 40 existing units to develop the 100 new units that are currently under construction. In phase two, several years from now, the remaining 30 existing units will be demolished.”

The Coast News was able to obtain data (see box below) from the city illustrating the specific range of rent costs for the Alora units, with rents going up for larger apartments and higher income levels. Rents will also fluctuate year to year based on changing economic conditions, Griffin said.

Alora project in San Marcos
Data table courtesy of the City of San Marcos

According to David Estrella, a director at the County Health and Human Services Agency, the Alora project is part of a countywide push to meet the increasing needs of lower-income San Diegans, many of whom he said are being priced out of an increasingly costly rental market.

“The loss of affordable units, coupled with the continuously rising rents, is creating housing instability for thousands of San Diegans across the region,” Estrella said. “It is very important, now more than ever, that the county take significant steps to preserve and create affordable housing opportunities throughout the region. And Alora is a significant step in this effort.”

According to the county’s press release, the new development will be strictly deed-restricted affordable housing for the next 99 years, meaning that the development cannot be repurposed for residential housing that isn’t tailored to low-income tenants.

Jones said that the Alora development is a unique step forward in the city’s ongoing strategy to expand access to affordable housing. Since Jones joined the City Council in 2007, she said that San Marcos has been able to construct a total of 544 low-income housing units, not including the Alora project.

“The fact that we have over 7% of our city’s housing as deed-restricted affordable housing stock is a really big deal,” Jones said. “It shows a commitment to a well-rounded community and well-rounded in terms of affordability. … This strategy is part of the reason why our city does not have a very large homeless population.”

The Alora project was conceptualized in 2014 as part of ongoing discussions involving the city, county and Affirmed Housing, Griffin said. In 2020, the city issued a predevelopment loan to jump-start design work for the project, and in 2021 the development was approved for $6.25 million in funding from the county’s Innovative Housing Trust Fund.

Additional funding for the project consists of $8.3 million in city money, a $10.7 million loan from Chase Bank and $14.58 million in federal tax credits, according to numbers provided by Affirmed Housing.

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