WALNUT CREEK -- The city will loan $1.7 million to an affordable-housing developer who aims to build 26 low- and very-low-income apartments a stone's throw from the Walnut Creek BART station.

The project, unanimously approved by the Walnut Creek City Council Tuesday night, is backed by nonprofit housing developer Resources for Community Development. It will be built on one-third of an acre at 1511-1515 Riviera Ave. Called The Riviera Family Apartments, the homes are for working families who make 20 to 60 percent of area median income -- that would be a family of three with an income anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 a year.

The loan has a 55-year term with zero percent interest. The money will allow the developer to buy the land, but developers are still working on the fundraising hoping to get more grants and tax credits to pay for the $14.6 million project.

All of the loan money comes from city housing funds, such as former redevelopment money and money paid to the city by other developers in lieu of building affordable units into their own projects. No general fund money will be used, said Laura Simpson, city housing manager. This type of transit-oriented affordable housing near stores such as Target is needed, she said.

"This would help meet a great demand for service-enriched affordable housing," Simpson said. "We have waiting lists for affordable housing" in the city.

Agencies such as Metropolitan Transportation Commission are interested in the project as a case study, as it would bring transit opportunities to working families, said Lisa Motoyama, director of housing development for the Berkeley-based nonprofit developer. Without grants and the city's help, these types of projects would not get done, she said at the meeting Tuesday.

"It's very hard for us to compete with market-rate developers," she said.

Many such developers have been interested in this parcel, according to Eugene McGrane, a Realtor who represented the seller. The buying and selling of property in Walnut Creek, he said, is back to pre-recession levels.

Walnut Creek resident Mary Fenelon welcomes the new project. She told the council the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the city is $2,200 a month, and that many working families can't afford that.

"These are the workers who make it the wonderful city that it is to live in," she said.

Mayor Cindy Silva said she supports the project because the housing is needed. And Resources for Community Development was behind Villa Vasconcellos on Geary Road, senior low income apartments, and it's been quite successful, she said.

Developers hope to start construction on Riviera by March of 2015.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.