After more than four decades of developing affordable housing projects in Marin County, including the property at Hamilton Field, Northbay Family Homes will be ending its operations in 2021.
During its operations, NFH built a legacy that will stand as a testament to its commitment to and passion for fulfilling its mission.
NFH’s first project, Encina Court Condominiums, was a six-unit development that was California’s first mutually owner-built/self-help project, in 1978. But Hamilton Field was, by far, its most ambitious and successful undertaking.
In Marin County, notoriously a difficult environment for any builder, the Encina Court condos were purchased by low-income families with construction and mortgage financing arranged by NFH.
Under the leadership of Clark Blasdell and with a dynamic board of directors, including Charlie Carson, Paul Simmons Kristie Wheeler, NFH took on the challenges of political, community, and regulatory interests to become Marin’s pioneer builder in affordable housing.
“We’re proud to point to Hamilton Field where half of the residences were developed as affordable housing, for ownership or rental,” said Blasdell.
“It was our crown jewel,” added Wheeler, “encompassing over 700 properties for low-income families with construction and mortgage financing arranged by us.”
Acknowledging that the need for affordable housing in Marin is ongoing, NFH leadership concluded in 2020 that it was time for the next generation of builders and community-minded developers to move to the forefront.
Accomplishments aside, Blasdell reflected on the most recent NFH project. “We (NFH & BlueStar Family Homes) have been working on a 100-unit home development for several years, and the estimated cost per unit had increased from $250,000 per unit up to $750,000, meaning project cost had increased from $25 million to $75 million. All of us at NFH/BlueStar felt we needed to leave those kinds of costs to others with more resources (staff and capital).”
Another major NFH legacy is having successfully worked with the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) to devise a different set of rules and procedures specifically for owner-built, affordable attached housing. The state set up a separate program in the HCD for owner-built housing with NFH’s expertise and counsel. The new procedures made it less difficult for groups to utilize the owner- builder concept, a concept now also employed by Habit for Humanity.
Long-time Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold remarked, “You will find examples of Northbay Family Homes work at Hamilton Field and many other projects around Marin and the Bay. They have also been leaders in advocating legislative rules to provide affordable housing that is so critical to our economy. I thank Clark, the board, and the entire team on a legacy well earned over many years.”
The NFH “scorecard” is an impressive one:
- Total Investment $154M
- Total Homes 4,014
- People Served 9,978
Blasdell acknowledged that undertaking was not always an easy one, “But I have always believed that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Added Wheeler and reflecting the board’s sentiment, said, “Clark should be recognized for his work on behalf of NFH. Our work on the board was to be there to back him up and to provide our individual expertise, as needed. I think that I speak for all of us that we were proud to have participated.”