The Sacramento Redevelopment Agency and a national developer have big plans for the residents of the Twin Rivers housing project. First, though, they have to tear the entire 218-unit neighborhood down.
The project is part of HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods initiative, an Obama-era successor to the agency’s HOPE V1 effort that has seen mixed success. Choice Neighborhoods focuses on rebuilding entire neighborhoods, with the goal of integrating residents of different income levels in walkable, mixed-use developments, but has a less-than-perfect track record in the area of actually getting foundation poured.
In Sacramento, the idea is to tackle two of the city’s most urgent problems in one fell swoop — systemic poverty and a lack of affordable housing, according to the Sacramento Bee. Twin Rivers, which houses lower-income residents, is currently isolated from other city neighborhoods by warehouses, junkyards and industrial buildings. As part of the remake, an additional 280 apartments will be added to the 200-plus earmarked for the area’s current inhabitants. They will be marketed to “young workers and families who can pay a bit more but have been priced out of housing just to the south in downtown and midtown,” the Bee reports. The site will also feature an upgraded neighborhood park, a new supermarket and light rail expansion.
“The exciting thing is not just replacing buildings,” Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency (SRHA) executive La Shelle Dozier told the Bee, adding that the neighborhood’s 400-plus residents are more likely to rise above poverty if they don’t live in isolation. “It’s about re-imagining communities.”
But of course, to rebuild the neighborhood with townhouses and apartments bordering tree-lined streets, the current residences have to be demolished. And the people who live in those residences aren’t all enthused by the prospect. One resident who has lived at Twin Rivers for a decade with her husband and children told the Bee that despite the appeal of more modern units, she “feel[s] like people with lower means will get the short end of the stick” and be hit with higher rents.
SHRA’s Dozier told the paper that wasn’t the case — residents currently pay a fixed 30 percent of their income on rent, and that will be the same after reconstruction. The agency “intends to help about 60 percent of Twin Rivers tenants move to other housing sites, or provide vouchers for non-governmental housing, by the end of this year,” according to the paper. The remaining tenants will be moved later, depending on the demolition and reconstruction schedule.
HUD awarded its first Choice implementation grants in 2011, sending Chicago, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle a combined $122.27 million for public housing developments. Grants have been used to fund community arts projects, create new housing units, and provide neighborhood WiFi in years since.
According to the Bee, however, the Choice program may be on the chopping block under the Trump administration.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.