Faculty, staff housing project moves closer to construction

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A new faculty and staff housing development project is slated to open in 2008 under CSUN’s Envision 2035 Master Plan.

The new project was launched to utilize the empty land north of Lassen Street and east of Zelzah Avenue in an innovative way, while also producing affordable housing to recruit and retain diverse faculty and staff members.

“Successful housing on the North Campus will really help shape the future of programs of Cal State Northridge, and without such (assets), we wouldn’t be so successful in our recruiting efforts,” said Thomas McCarron, executive director and president of the North Campus-University Park Development Corporation.

The new project is geared toward a “village-type” environment. According to a summary of the project, the goal is to create a strong sense of community with CSUN among residents.

The initial budget estimate approved to begin construction was set at nearly $500,000 back in June, McCarron said. To date, pre-construction activity has cost around $2 million, which will be allocated by the NC-UP Development Corporation. The first phase could cost nearly $60 million in total costs.

The first phase tentatively features 250 units on approximately 14 acres of land. McCarron said the development is likely to include 154 units for sale and 100 rental units.

The plan for future housing for faculty and staff is to construct more housing levels vertically rather than expanding units by ground level.

The project will allow for the sale of both unit rentals and homes, which could generate long-term and contract-based occupancy. For instance, if a faculty or staff member wants to purchase ownership rights to a piece of property, he or she could buy the unit and lease the ground underneath it.

Otherwise, the person would rent for as long as he or she needed.

This was implemented in an effort to retain existing faculty and staff and to potentially attract new recruits, McCarron said.

“We’ll target the rents at slightly below market,” McCarron said.

Monthly rents will probably range from between $725 and $2,510, depending on the unit, according to the summary of the plan.

CSUN California Faculty Association President Dave Ballard said the recruiting process is vital to future success at CSUN, and that affordable housing in a market like Los Angeles is essential to getting and keeping qualified professors.

McCarron expressed the same opinions about the Los Angles market.

“Medium prices of houses in California, particularly Southern California, have gone up dramatically in the last three years,” McCarron said. “They’ve about doubled in the last three years, so the affordability for most folks has dropped out dramatically.”

“The idea has been around for a couple of decades, and some of the major programs going back to the early 80s were at (University of California) Irvine and other campuses throughout the country,” he said.

One of the goals of the Faculty/Staff Housing Assessment and Project Program is to assess and define “affordability.” The target income bracket was said to be in the $60,000 to $100,000 range of household income, but it is specifically dedicated to home ownership. Thirty percent of the units are dedicated to rentals, which serves the $40,000 to $60,000 range of household income.

The new housing program has received strong campus-wide support according to interviews and surveys from focus groups and faculty and staff members. Compared to other alternatives for North Campus land usage, almost all feedback has been favorable, McCarron said.

The AC Martin company, a major player in CSUN’s Envision 2035 planning, coordinated with McCarron and consultants in discussing the best uses for the North Campus land. Anaheim-based Valeo Companies is also involved in the program, and the company was in charge of making sure the project met unique housing criteria currently being caused by Southern California housing market boom.

“It’s about time they did something up here,” said Erin Esslinger, 23, a Northridge resident, when asked what she thought about grazing the North Campus lot for a new housing development for faculty and staff.

Jelly Mae Jadraque can be reached at jelly.mae.quilantang.jadraque@csun.edu.