Affordable Homes at ‘Atmosphere’ Address San Diego’s Homeless Crisis

Finding an affordable place to live seems out of reach for many in San Diego, but a new high-rise is making affordable rent a reality for hundreds of San Diegans in need – including people who have experienced homelessness.

On May 31, Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation will hold the grand opening ceremony for Atmosphere, a community of 205 affordable homes in the heart of downtown San Diego with monthly rents that range from roughly $525 to $1,250. 

While 154 of those affordable homes are designed for qualifying individuals and families earning around $17,000 to $48,000 per year, 51 are permanent supportive housing apartments designed specifically for people who have recently been homeless - including individuals with mental disabilities. These safe, secure homes include wrap-around resident services that promote stability and allow them to thrive. 

“The 205 units of affordable housing that Atmosphere will provide could not come at a better time for our community,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who also serves as chairman of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. “I really want to thank Wakeland and everyone else involved for delivering such a positive project that just days from now will begin to change hundreds of lives for the better.”  

Atmosphere is Wakeland’s largest development to date as well as the most unique, according to Wakeland’s President and CEO Ken Sauder.

“Atmosphere is really special because the homes here serve the broad spectrum of people who need affordable homes,” said Sauder. “In particular, Wakeland is gratified that Atmosphere addresses San Diego’s growing need for permanent supportive housing and will help some of our most vulnerable neighbors find stability.”

According to the 2017 San Diego Homeless Point-in-Time Count, there are currently 9,116 people experiencing homelessness in San Diego County, up 5 percent from last year. In the downtown neighborhood near Atmosphere, those numbers are rising even faster, with an increase of 27 percent since last year.

The need for permanent supportive housing is vital in San Diego County, as it gives people a permanent place to live so they can become stabilized, allowing them to access community resources with the goal of staying housed for the long term. This combination of housing and services – also known as the Housing First model – is a solution that has helped some communities in the United States reduce chronic homelessness on their streets by as much as 90 percent. Also, unlike a temporary shelter or homeless services center, people cannot walk in and receive services at a development that provides permanent supportive housing, as the services are only available to residents. Wakeland’s Atmosphere development demonstrates their ongoing commitment to the San Diego region, providing affordable homes and permanent supportive housing options to help alleviate the homeless crisis in our county.

“Atmosphere is an outstanding example of the type of partnership development that is needed to address San Diego’s shortage of affordable housing for low-income families and homeless San Diegans,” said San Diego Housing Commission Chairman of the Board Frank Urtasun. “The San Diego Housing Commission’s commitment of 51 Federal housing vouchers to provide rental assistance for homeless San Diegans here at Atmosphere is an important part of HOUSING FIRST – SAN DIEGO, our Homelessness Action Plan.” 

The $79.3 million Atmosphere development was completed on time and on budget. Financing drew on a unique mix of sources including both 9% and 4% state tax credits, state infill funding, vouchers from the San Diego Housing Commission and former redevelopment funds from Civic San Diego, which has worked for many years with Wakeland to bring the Atmosphere community to life.

“Civic San Diego is proud to be a funding partner in the Atmosphere project,” said Civic San Diego President Reese A. Jarrett. “This project is a testament of the City’s commitment to continue the development of affordable housing projects in this post-redevelopment era and is a prime example of what can happen through public-private partnerships. Affordable housing continues to be a priority of Civic San Diego. We applaud Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation and the San Diego Housing Commission for partnering with us in making this project a reality.”

"We are excited that Wakeland entrusted this important affordable housing development to us as their financing partner. Atmosphere will provide an excellent, safe home that will change residents' lives for the better so that they can achieve their 'possible,'" said Vihar Sheth, senior vice president of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation, a division of U.S. Bank.

Designed by the internationally-recognized firm of Joseph Wong Design Associates and built by Suffolk Construction Company, Atmosphere will achieve a LEED Silver Certification for sustainability. The community features 12 stories of modern, comfortable and functional homes around an open central courtyard with three levels of underground parking, community rooms and a rooftop deck. 

Atmosphere was also built to ensure longevity. With 205 units, it could potentially provide affordable homes to more than 10,000 San Diegans over its expected 55-year life span as residents succeed and move out, making room for other neighbors in need.

Atmosphere is fully leased-up, but people who think they may qualify for affordable housing can go to www.wakelandhdc.com to find information about the waitlist as well as a list of other properties that they can call to inquire about vacancies.

The grand opening ceremony will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 31 at Atmosphere, 1453 Fourth Ave., San Diego, 92101. A media preview and tour of the building will start at 10 a.m., with check-ins beginning at 9:30 a.m. 

ABOUT WAKELAND HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation is a leader in the creation and operation of affordable housing in California, delivering high-quality residential developments that address the needs of the communities we serve. Since we started in 1998, we have created and preserved nearly 6,500 affordable homes at 40 properties throughout the state, each of which showcases our commitment to building and operating high-quality housing communities with superior on-site programs and services for residents. Visit our website to learn more: www.wakelandhdc.com.