BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Affordable housing is hard to come not only in California but also in Kern County. But the Housing Authority of Kern is working on a project to bring more housing units to one Bakersfield community.
“The vacancy factor here in Kern County is very low. I think it’s less than one percent,” said Mardi Sharples, the housing administrator for the Housing Authority of Kern.
That’s why the Housing Authority of Kern is building an affordable housing site in Northeast Bakersfield called the Residences at East Hills.
“We are so excited about this new development because we are bringing an additional 80 units of affordable housing to the community of Bakersfield,” added Housing of Kern Assistant Executive Director Heather Kimmel.
The $17.5 million project broke ground in July 2020 and Kimmel says it is important now more than ever to provide more housing in Bakersfield.
“Before the pandemic, it was hard to find affordable housing. We had several residents in the city of Bakersfield and the county of Kern paying half of their income towards rent. Then you layer in the pandemic on top of that and now we have pandemic layer income issues, we’ve got a tighter rental market with a historic vacancy rate for this area.”
Sharples also says housing it's so hard to come by that one of their waitlists has thousands of people.
“One of our waitlists we have about 17,000 people just for public housing.”
Sharples also says that she thinks the pandemic has added to the issue of a lack of housing.
“Because of COVID and the eviction moratoriums and everybody staying in place and such things, people aren’t moving so there’s just not the housing stock available right now.”
So what’s unique about the East Hills location? it's going to help house veterans.
“There’s 80 units total here. Half of those units are going to be reserved for people who served in the U.S. military. We want to make sure that when somebody goes and serves our country and they come home, that housing isn’t an issue for them," said Kimmel.
The current housing market in Bakersfield has dipped below one percent and now rent for many apartments is over $2,000 a month.
According to the longstanding convention, in Kern County alone households that spend 30 percent or more of their income on housing are considered burdened by housing costs that they may not be able to afford.
Since 2020, the median price of a home has jumped nearly 20 percent and most one to two-bedroom apartments cost nearly $2,000 a month to rent.
“I think all of us right now have people who we know who are in a situation who cannot afford their rent any longer or they need to get into a new rental and they’re just not able to find something," explained Kimmel. "So for us to be able to add rental inventory to the community, to help alleviate some of that burden, I mean 80 units won’t take care of all of the problems, but we can be part of the solution.”
The site is expected to finish construction in September but Kimmel says the applications are open if you want to apply now.