Trailblazing Development Marks New OC Housing Pipeline for Nationwide Nonprofit Developer
Santa Ana, Calif – Legacy Square, a pioneering affordable housing community developed by National CORE, transforms an underutilized parcel of church-owned land into 93 homes while investing $10 million in community transit, a park and other improvements in downtown Santa Ana.
Legacy Square marks the first affordable housing community in a slate of new Orange County developments from National CORE. Four more communities are set to open within the next few years in Lake Forest, Placentia, Anaheim and Buena Park to help the county meet its housing goals.
Leaders from National CORE, Santa Ana, Orange County, Santa Ana United Methodist Church and their partners held a grand opening ceremony on June 21 to celebrate completion of the community.
“The partnerships that have made Legacy Square possible will transform the lives of all of the residents who live here and improve the health, wellbeing and economic opportunity of the larger Santa Ana community,” National CORE President Michael Ruane said. “We are thrilled to continue our successful collaborations with communities across Orange County, providing much needed affordable housing that fits seamlessly into established communities.”
Legacy Square represents National CORE’s first partnership with a church, a creative solution to the lack of land available for critically needed affordable housing. The development replaces two buildings owned by the Methodist Church with 93 high-quality one-, two- and three-bedroom homes for individuals and families earning less than 60% of the area median income. Thirty-three homes are reserved for previously unhoused or extremely low-income individuals.
“Our congregation recognized the enormous value of repurposing what we referred to as our ‘Downtown Site’ rather than selling it outright for a single financial windfall,” said Rev. N. Adiel A. DePano, lead pastor with the Santa Ana United Methodist Church. “By partnering with National CORE, Santa Ana United Methodist Church becomes a part of the solution to the city’s acute lack of affordable housing while remaining true to who we are as people of faith who are called to love God with everything we’ve got and love our neighbor as ourselves.”
Legacy Square is located on Santa Ana Boulevard adjacent to an Orange County streetcar station and delivers 1,750 square feet of ground-level flexible space for community investment. A 3,800-square-foot community center serves as a neighborhood hub for events and activities.
Orange County’s Health Care Agency, Orange County Community Resources and other partners collaborated to provide 16 units of the 33 homes for residents who were previously unhoused through the provisions of the Mental Health Services Act.
The County of Orange Health Care Agency is excited to partner with National CORE on its second permanent supportive housing project,” said Dr. Veronica Kelley, OC HCA chief of mental health and recovery services.
“These units will provide permanent supportive housing for individuals living with a mental illness creating a safe and stable environment to focus on their recovery and personal growth,” Kelley said. “One of the key elements to successfully housing individuals are the onsite support services, and HCA will be onsite with Telecare Home First to provide that support and oversight.”
National CORE received a $25.4 million Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grant from the Strategic Growth Council and the California Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure the development not only serves low-income residents, but also adds a host of amenities for the broader community.
The AHSC award includes $10.4 million for offsite improvements, including Metrolink improvements, new bikeways and sidewalks, safer street crossings, traffic calming measures, street trees, a pocket park and funding to promote the use of public transportation. The effort establishes a bicycle shop and education program, promotes local workforce development programs and provides three years of free transit passes for all Legacy Square residents.
“The Strategic Growth Council is proud to support Legacy Square,” said Lynn von Koch-Liebert, executive director of the Strategic Growth Council. “This development pursues a safer and more equitable future through its affordable housing, sustainable transit and workforce development projects. These multi-benefit solutions show how fruitful community engagement and public-private partnerships can advance healthy, thriving and resilient communities for all.”
In line with National CORE’s commitment to sustainability, a portion of the Strategic Growth Council’s funding was used to promote the use of public transit. This includes supporting Metrolink’s Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion, allowing Metrolink to increase rail capacity, train speeds and service and making high-frequency schedules possible.
“I’m proud that Santa Ana is home to the first affordable housing project in National CORE’s new Orange County expansion,” Santa Ana Mayor Valerie Amezcua said. “They couldn’t have picked a better place to start. Santa Ana is a housing leader, and we are creating much-needed homes for people of all income levels.”
The Hope through Housing Foundation provides residents with onsite services and programs focused on helping children and teens achieve academic success, improving families’ financial wellbeing and promoting health and wellness for residents of all ages. Mercy House is providing comprehensive supportive services for previously unhoused residents, targeting housing stability, economic mobility and overall wellbeing.
National CORE also worked closely with local community organizations and historic preservation groups to identify needs and goals for the development.
The process included stakeholder meetings held from 2018 to 2022 with the Orange County Transportation Authority, Metrolink, Vecindad Lacy en Acción (VeLA), Kennedy Commission, Latino Health Access, Taller San Jose Hope Builders, Bicycle Tree, the Ebell Club, Santa Ana Building Healthy Communities, French Park Neighborhood Association, Santa Ana Active Streets Coalition, Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies, OC Health Care Agency and the Santa Ana Unified School District.
“The Legacy Square project is an example of collaboration with residents of the community, organizations that prioritize the well-being of homeless people and those without decent housing. We thank the United Methodist Church for its leadership in caring for our neighbors,” said Idalia Rios of VeLA. “Vecindario Lacy en Accion is committed to advocating for individuals that don’t have a seat at the table; we will continue to work for a better future in Santa Ana and hope that Legacy Square will be the beginning of what will come.”
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About National CORE
National CORE is one of the largest nonprofit developers in the nation, with a 30-year history of being an innovator in the field. In 2021 National CORE became one of only two affordable housing developers to earn an A+ credit rating from Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings. In 2022, National CORE issued $100 million in Series 2022 Social Bonds to accelerate the development of critically needed affordable housing. Serving more than 25,000 residents, National CORE strives to be a launching pad, not a landing pad, for families struggling financially. In 1998 National CORE created the Hope through Housing Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit, whose mission is to end the cycle of generational poverty through resident services that promote educational attainment, economic mobility, and overall wellbeing.
About Hope through Housing Foundation
Hope through Housing believes that affordable housing can be a platform for transformational change at the individual and neighborhood level. For more than 20 years, the Hope through Housing Foundation has provided more than 2 million hours of transformational social services helping children and teens achieve success, improving families’ financial well-being, and promoting seniors’ health and wellness. For more information on Hope through Housing, please visit www.hthf.org.