Low-income housing in Hickman to bust stereotypes

A representative for Modesto developer Wendell Naraghi said he will present plans for 60 low-income duplex units at a community meeting here next month and attempt to dispel myths about affordable housing.

Project manager Wayne Bruns said the housing will be designed and maintained to bust the stereotypes about low-income projects. He will discuss the plans at the Hickman Municipal Advisory Council meeting Dec. 4.

Bruns said the single-story duplexes on Montpelier Road would look like houses and won’t hurt the property values of homeowners in the unincorporated community in eastern Stanislaus County. He suggested the real estate values of nearby properties will improve.

Bruns referred to Naraghi’s Villas at Villaggio and Marina Apartments as two of the best apartment complexes in Modesto. The developer’s 16-unit Wisdom Place duplex project on Wisdom Way, east of Oakdale Road, goes before the Modesto City Council for approval Tuesday.

The project manager is distributing a letter in Hickman from a large property management firm, FPI Inc., which contends there is no link between affordable housing and crime. A well-maintained center with professional staff and strong resident screening would not bring crime to the neighborhood, the letter says.

It also suggests that many affordable housing renters are members of the community, such as seniors on fixed income and working families. “The modern-day low-income projects are nothing like what we used to think,” Bruns said.

Hickman residents have been circulating petitions opposing the housing and aired their concerns at a Hickman school board meeting where Bruns introduced the possible development. The project proponents are likely to hear more of the same at the upcoming meeting, which also will feature a presentation from county planning officials on the review process for multifamily developments.

Residents have said their property values would suffer and sheriff patrols are too thin to provide protection in Hickman.

The 60 housing units could add around 200 residents to Hickman’s population. Bruns said school district officials have estimated 120 additional students.

The 15-acre development is in the early planning stage. Naraghi also is considering the option of building single-family homes instead of duplexes, but the market research on that alternative has just begun, said Bruns, who questioned whether the homes would sell.

Because of the cost of county development fees, single-family homes would need to be priced at $250,000 and up, he estimated.

The Montpelier Road property was approved for 1-acre residential lots in the late 1980s and would need a new site plan if Naraghi decides to build duplexes or single-family homes. Bruns said Hickman was chosen for the proposed duplexes simply because Naraghi and others have owned the property for many years.

“There is demand all over the county,” Bruns said. “People with lower incomes need housing, too. The philosophy in California and across the country in the last 20 years is for developers to help provide affordable housing. People on the lower end have a harder time with the cost.”

Bruns said he’s spoken with the county Housing Authority about subsidized rents for tenants.

The two- and three-bedroom units likely would range in size from 950 to 1,150 square feet. Renters not eligible for assistance would pay around $950 a month for the smaller dwellings to $1,100 a month for the larger ones, he said.

Naraghi first needs a formal promise from Modesto to supply water. The city operates Hickman’s water service and needs to install a well and storage tank before it can serve more homes in the town.

If the city issues a will-serve letter next year, the developer would apply for county government approval and public hearings would be held. Bruns noted that construction is two or three years away.

The Municipal Advisory Council will meet at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Hickman Charter School, 13306 Fourth St.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.