Sebastopol is poised to add two housing developments that combine more affordable rents or mortgages with a "co-housing" approach for residents who want to build deeper relationships with their neighbors.
The two developments are the first affordable housing projects for Sebastopol in a decade.
A $16 million rental project is billed as the first in the nation to combine co-housing with more affordable rents for all tenants. And an $8.5 million for-sale development is among the first to take a similar approach for home buyers.
"This is the model that will provide the option of co-housing to people who need affordable housing," said Michael Black, a Santa Rosa architect who designed two existing co-housing projects in Sonoma County and put together the development team for the for-sale development in Sebastopol.
Both Sebastopol projects will offer residents such co-housing staples as the chance to share meals in an on-site community room. Residents can watch one another's children and garden or do crafts together. The developers plan to facilitate community formation processes with each project's residents.
A groundbreaking is scheduled Thursday for the 45-unit Petaluma Avenue Homes, the rental project at Petaluma and Walker avenues. Meanwhile, grading and underground work has begun for the 20-unit Sequoia Village, the for-sale project located off Covert Lane just east of Pleasant Hill Avenue.
The City Council backed both developments by authorizing Sebastopol to purchase the properties, selecting the developers and contributing a total of $3.4 million.
"These two projects are very significant in that the city government has taken a lead," Sebastopol Mayor Sam Pierce said.
The town of 7,800 residents, where the median home price exceeds $730,000, needs more affordable housing, Pierce said. "We've got huge market pressures that are driving out the diversity of our community."
The shrinking number of young families eventually could lead to closure of public schools, which Pierce called "one of the principal binding elements of a community."
Sonoma County has co-housing projects in several cities. Among them are two that Black designed: Sebastopol's Two Acre Wood and Santa Rosa's Yulupa Avenue Co-housing.
The idea of co-housing originated in Denmark. The first such project in the United States was built in 1991 in Davis.
Joani Blank, a volunteer with the Co-housing Association of the United States, said co-housing enthusiasts are especially interested in two aspects of the Sebastopol projects: improving the "affordability factor" for residents and building with green construction techniques. The two projects will include solar electric panels and other conservation features.
At Sequoia Village, a family of four could qualify for some units with an annual income of up to $59,600; for other units that amount increases to $90,000. The buyers must provide 500 hours of sweat equity.
In addition, the city has tied up $80,000 in each unit, which is intended to keep the home prices below market rates for first and subsequent buyers for 59 years.
At Petaluma Avenue Homes, families of four with annual incomes of $15,000 to $40,000 can qualify. Rents will range from $375 to $1,100 per month depending on household income and unit size.
Buyers for all the Sequoia Village units have been selected, though not all have completed the qualifying process, said John Lowry, executive director of Santa Rosa's Burbank Housing, the project developer.
The applications for Petaluma Avenue Homes are expected to become available next spring, said Kevin Zwick of the project developer, Affordable Housing Associates in Berkeley.
"It could be a powerful tool for co-housing advocates to replicate this," Zwick said of the rental project.