Marin County residents are among the highest earners in California on average, according to a recent analysis by New York financial technology company SmartAsset. Yet, the county faces a housing crisis, with a booming population that struggles to find affordable options.
Marin County’s mortgages and rents are the highest in California, with a median price for a single-family home coming in at $1.2 million, and the average rent for a two-bedroom unit priced at more than $3,000 per month. In addition to the high cost of rent, Marin’s population has grown by nearly 10,000 in the last 10 years, though the county has added fewer than 1,500 housing units in that time.
This summer, a new low-income senior complex in Fairfax is meeting the challenge of finding affordable housing with 54 units of one-bedroom apartments opening soon.
The senior community, Victory Village, just completed final inspections and is allowing people ages 62 and older to move in this summer. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no on-site opening event, though the county is celebrating the opening just the same.
“We are so pleased that some seniors who have been living in motels during the Covid-19 public health emergency and were previously homeless are among those who get to move into Victory Village,” Marin County Community Development Agency planning manager Leelee Thomas says in a statement. “For those folks and many others, the name of this facility will have a personal meaning. For them, it will be a victory to settle down in a beautiful new home.”
Built in partnership with Bay Area nonprofit group Resources for Community Development, Victory Village’s 53 new one-bedroom homes and one two-bedroom manager’s unit is located one mile north of downtown Fairfax, at the former home of Christ Lutheran Church and Cascade Canyon School.
The community is set among oak woods and offers easy access to a large open-space preserve, while also being located adjacent to bus stops serving Fairfax town center, San Rafael and Downtown San Francisco.
Victory Village is considered a triumph for fair housing and for access for people with physical challenges. Twenty-eight apartments are designed for tenants with mobility impairments, and three of those have enhancements for those with auditory or visual impairments.
Eleven of the Victory Village apartments—20 percent of the units—are designated for people transitioning from homelessness. The community received $2.6 million of assistance from the County of Marin’s Affordable Housing Fund in the form of a $1.5 million grant and a $1.1 million loan.
Thomas says that the project aligns with the county’s years-long goals to meet the challenge faced by residents being priced out of Marin because of high rents and mortgages, noting that there is an ongoing and urgent need to support similar projects, especially in the wake of the current economic troubles connected to the ongoing pandemic.
This is the second time Marin County funds have supported a major housing project in Fairfax. In February 2016, the Board approved $675,000 to prevent 27 units of affordable family housing from being changed to market rates at the Piper Court Apartments.
Construction on Victory Village dates back to the fall of 2018 after more than six years of planning and working to obtain permits. In addition to the housing units, Victory Village also includes a community room, two outdoor courtyards with raised garden beds and drought-wise landscaping. On-site parking and improvements to the site’s sidewalks and crosswalks allow for maximum mobility.
The application period for residents, managed by the Marin Housing Authority, started in February and closed June 29. Residents need to be at least 62 years old and earn less than $72,500 per year to qualify for a home there.