When I looked at all the beauty, the landscaping, the architecture, I kept wondering ‘Is this really happening?”
Affordable housing at accessible price
The fourth new low-income community in Great Park Neighborhoods meets the needs of seniors
Kedric Francis | October 7, 2018
When Ken Blackburn learned that his application to become a resident at the new affordable senior housing community of Luxaira had been approved, it was the first of many pleasant surprises.
“I thought I was at the wrong address,” Blackburn said when he first arrived and saw the ambiance of the new Great Park Neighborhoods apartment complex where he and his dog Luna would soon live. “When I looked at all the beauty, the landscaping, the architecture, I kept wondering, ‘Is this really happening?’”
The Luxaira community includes a total of 157 studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, each with a gourmet kitchen, hardwood flooring and private outdoor space. Extensive amenities shared by Blackburn and his fellow residents include two rooftop terraces, a saltwater swimming pool and spa, quilting and art studios, cardio and yoga facilities, a community garden and a demonstration kitchen.
“I thought I lived in a really nice resort community (before),” Blackburn says. “But coming here, it just tops it all.”
Luxaira is the fourth affordable community built on land that once was the Marine Corps Station El Toro. FivePoint Holdings, LLC’s partnership (Heritage Fields El Toro LLC) funded its construction along with Riverside Charitable Corporation and Related California. The first was Solaira, which debuted in 2015. The two affordable communities for families (Luminaira and Espaira) debuted last year.
Luxaira, which was designed by WHA Architects, won the Grand Award for Best Affordable Senior Community at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference in San Francisco this past summer.
“It needs to be great at the Great Park,” said Lynn Jochim, co-chief operating officer for FivePoint. “We have built a foundation for this community together. We will continue to grow that foundation, and tie the past, the present, and the future.”
Officials from the county and City of Irvine gathered for a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. It was attended by Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, Irvine mayor Donald Wagner and city councilmember Melissa Fox.
“Creating quality affordable housing is a major challenge, and one that the city of Irvine is proud to continue to support,” said Mayor Wagner at the event. “This grand opening is another important step in our ongoing efforts to create vibrant, inclusive, sustainable and affordable neighborhoods. Luxaira not only increases the number of affordable units, it raises the bar on the quality of affordable housing in our city and throughout Orange County.”
According to nonprofit California Housing Partnership, Orange County has a shortage of 92,738 affordable homes for those with low or very low incomes. Statewide, the number jumps to 1.5 million homes. All the units at Luxaira are rent restricted for low-income senior tenants.
The complex is fully leased to qualified tenants. In fact, there’s a waiting list with 1,000 hopeful applicants on it.
“Many residents lived in Irvine already but couldn’t afford to stay here,” Bill Witte, chairman and CEO of Related California, said at the ceremony. “Others have family here. So it’s really part of the neighborhood.”
Ken Robertson, president of Riverside Charitable Corporation, reminded those at the Luxaira event that affordable housing had been included in plans for the former MCAS El Toro base since it closed in the mid-1990s.
“In the beginning we committed to affordable housing, and we’ve stayed with that all the way through,” Robertson said. “It’s because of FivePoint and their commitment to affordable housing that we have more than we actually applied for,” noting that the original plan was for 300 affordable units on the base. “Today we have over 500 units, with more to come,” he said, referring to the total of 1,056 affordable units built or planned within Great Park Neighborhoods.