When the doors opened last fall on an affordable housing rental community known as Hikari, it brought 50 much-needed rental units to Salinas. The impact of the Monterey County Housing Authority Development Corp.’s project extends far beyond those walls: Hikari was the completion of a six-year, four-phase development that added 200 energy-efficient rental units to the region. Over those six years, Haciendas Place I and II and the Dai-Ichi Village projects collectively brought more than $75 million to the local economy, generated more than 1,000 well-paying construction jobs and helped spur revitalization of the Chinatown district. What’s more, it ventured into new territory for affordable housing: The use of modular construction to drastically reduce costs and speed up production, and incorporating energy efficiencies and sustainable building practices. And they provided stability and dignity for some of the region’s most vulnerable populations, including senior citizens.

Since its inception, Monterey County Housing Authority Development Corp. has developed  1,550 units of new construction in Monterey County and 150 in San Luis Obispo County, with another 150 currently under construction and 300 in the pipeline. The consulting expertise of the Monterey County Housing Authority Development Corp. has proven invaluable to housing authorities and affordable housing developers in the Monterey Bay region and across the country. “Other housing authorities would like to use our model for repositioning public housing,” says President/CEO Starla Warren. “They don’t have the development capacity or experience necessary.”

Developing affordable housing in one of the country’s least affordable markets comes with unique challenges along with a need for cutting-edge solutions, says Warren. While modular units – prefabricated in Idaho and shipped nearly complete to Salinas – significantly reduced costs and helped avoid weather-related construction delays, finding contractors and qualified tradesmen with modular experience proved difficult..”Modular is probably going to be a strong wave for the future and can contribute to the adding to the supply of affordable housing, so people need to figure out how to make that recipe work,” says Warren.

“It’s a very challenging effort, and not just challenging but ever-changing,” says Warren. “You continually have to think outside of the box, make new boxes, make new squares, You have to be willing and open to finding new ways to deliver.”