ORINDA -- A handful of new affordable-housing units will soon be up for grabs in Orinda, but only to buyers who meet certain criteria to purchase them.

City staffers told officials this week they plan to hold a random drawing at a future public meeting to select interested buyers to receive the opportunity to purchase the first affordable-housing units being built as part of the 73-unit Orinda Grove residential development on Altarinda Road.

The City Council is also considering partnering with the city of Walnut Creek to allow that city's affordable housing program to manage the units.

Pulte Homes is building eight affordable housing units as part of an agreement reached with the city in 2008 for the development of the former Pine Grove school site. The first four below-market duplexes will cost $385,000 and will be interspersed among single-family dwellings whose prices are estimated to range from $1.17 million to $1.24 million. The price of the remaining four "affordable" units will be determined by future average mortgage rates and other factors.

Pulte is also building a ball field and new school district offices adjacent to the development on the 10-plus acre site formerly owned by the Orinda School District.


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At Tuesday's update, Planning Director Emmanuel Ursu reminded officials the city required the developer to build the units and make them affordable to "moderate income households" as part of the project's approval.

"When the city council established the conditions of approval back in 2008, there was a feeling that there was a lack of family housing in Orinda that was affordable," Ursu said. The city is required by state law to zone for -- but not build -- a certain number of affordable-housing units to meet the "regional housing needs allocation" managed by the Association of Bay Area Governments. The units will be sold to households whose incomes do not exceed 120 percent of the area median income for Contra Costa County. In order to qualify as a potential buyer, an applicant's maximum gross four-person household income can't exceed $112,200. The limit is $121,200 for a five-person household and $130,150 for six people.

Once income requirements are verified, buyers will need to enter into an agreement with the city that will prevent the buyer from occupying the house for less than 10 months per year or renting the unit without an approved hardship exception. The units will also need to be resold at an affordable price.

The city plans to hold a public workshop in November or December to explain the details of the below-market-rate program. Staffers will begin accepting applications before a possible January deadline.

Eligible applicants will then be separated into two tiers. The first tier will include prospective buyers with at least one household member who has been employed in Orinda for at least a year. The second tier will include other applicants.

Orinda's average home price currently hovers around $1.1 million; the average price of a home in Contra Costa County is around $420,500, according to the real estate information company DataQuick.

Pulte Northern California Manager Aaron Head said he expects the first two below-market-rate units to be completed by July, with two additional units slated for the end of the year. The additional four units are expected to be constructed at a later date.