New Apartment Complex Aims to House Sacramento Millennials with Modest Paychecks

Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Tony Bizjak and Ryan Lillis
Sacramento Bee

Sacramento’s downtown apartment-building boom stepped up its already speedy pace this week with a notable new project – a densely packed midtown apartment aimed squarely at millennials with modest pocketbooks.

The 19J apartments at 19th and J streets will include a couple dozen “micro-units” with rents under $1,000, a rarity in a city that has made headlines for the fastest-rising rents in the country.

Developer Nikky Mohanna, who is 27, said she is building the project with her young friends in mind. They want to live near jobs and entertainment but struggle to afford central-city rents.

It’s the third major project underway in a particularly active section of the central city, where midtown blends into downtown. The Ice Blocks development site at 17th and R streets will open the first of 142 apartments next month, and construction is well underway on a 68-unit apartment building at 19th and Q streets.

Another major project deeper in downtown is nearing completion in the 700 block of K Street, where more than 130 apartments will sit atop a row of restaurants. Some of the units will be set aside for low-income earners.

A block away, another 170 units are planned for the 800 block of K Street in a development led by the Sacramento Kings and developer Ali Youssefi. That project also includes some affordable units.

The building boom had not stopped the steady rise of rents, a situation that prompted Mayor Darrell Steinberg to say the city needs to build more affordable housing and explore policies that protect tenants from unfair evictions. While activists are calling for rent control, Steinberg and others have expressed skepticism with that model, saying it could discourage developers from building new housing stock.

The average central-city rent is $1,487 a month for a 781-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment, according to Colliers International and MPF Research. A report released Tuesday by ApartmentList showed Sacramento’s year-over-year rent increases continue to far outpace the national and statewide rates.

At Mohanna’s 19J project, crews will conduct several weeks of ground testing for foundation piles on site, and formal construction should begin before the end of the month, Mohanna said. The building’s opening date would be 16 months later.

Mohanna describes the 11-story, 175-unit project as “small and smart.” It would include a few dozen studio apartments at 300 square feet.

“It’s an efficient way of living,” said Mohanna who works with her dad at the Mohanna Development Co. “To be able to pay down your student debt. And not having to own a car.”

Mohanna said she is saving money by limiting parking on site to 50 cars. The project instead will offer more space for bikes and scooters, and includes two ZipCars available for hourly rental. Garage construction is very costly, city officials say, often more than $35,000 for each parking space, making it harder for builders to finance housing construction and get a return on their investment.

While Mohanna is vowing to keep the smallest units under $1,000 a month, she said it is hard to predict what all unit rents will be when the complex opens in late 2018.

Eighty percent of the units will be studios. People who live there will use local restaurants, bars, cafes and parks as their other living and gathering spaces, she said.

“We made a commitment these are going to be affordable by design,” she said. “Hopefully, it will provide proof (of the viability) for this type of structure., which we have not seen in Sacramento.

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