BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — When traveling around Bakersfield homelessness is a common sight to see. The Bakersfield-Kern Regional Homeless Collaborative says that as of February of 2022 there were roughly 1,600 homeless people in Bakersfield.
To better help the homeless, Golden Empire Affordable Housing opened a new development designed to provide low-income families with affordable housing. 23ABC’s Breanna Polk was at the grand opening and brings has the latest update on this new project.
Pioneer Cottages is the name of the new affordable housing development in Bakersfield. The facility was created to help community members who need housing assistance.
Stephen Pelz, the executive director of the Housing Authority of the County of Kern, explains that changes in the housing market have directly affected the homeless situation.
“We all know that affordable housing is a real challenge and it felt like Bakersfield was affordable and kern county was affordable for a long time. It is not as affordable as it used to be.”
Those concerns are what sparked the vision for the new affordable housing development right off of Oswell Street and Pioneer Drive in East Bakersfield
The planning began back in 2018 with the idea to serve households with income levels at or below 60 percent of the area's median income. Pelz explains that while market-rate housing is needed in the area, so is affordable housing to ensure that more residents have a roof over their heads.
However, Pelz says prior to executing this project they had to overcome quite a few hurdles.
“It’s been a challenge. It always is developing affordable housing, but particularly through the pandemic. It took us four years to get to today. A lot of trials, a lot of hurdles, a lot of delays but we are so excited to be here and celebrate new affordable homes for our families in need.”
Pelz says the Pioneer Cottages feature nine one-story garden style fourplexes containing 36 one-bedroom units and all the units are energy efficient with a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave, and solar power to offset energy costs.
Stacy Kuwahara, director of Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services says tenants will also have access to onsite services provided by their organization to ensure stability in their new homes.
“We’re very excited to be working on-site and to be doing the work that we need to do that is going to help make our residents here successful in maintaining their housing and really making these houses their homes.”
The Pioneer Cottages will also provide interactive resident services such as adult education classes, skill-building classes, and many other activities that Pelz believes will help create their very own community on site.
“We know it works. We have an over 90 percent success rate where persons who are homeless get into permanent housing and stay for at least two years over 90 percent. That’s really what we want. We want stability for them. We don’t want them back out on the street.”
Pelz adds eighteen of these units are set aside for individuals experiencing homelessness eligible under the no place like home program, and tenants are expected to move in within the next two weeks.