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State Buildings Could Be Turned into Housing

The state is seeking proposals to convert the Employment Development Department building, the EDD Solar Building and the State Personnel Board building into affordable housing.

Three state office buildings in downtown Sacramento are being made available to turn into affordable housing.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced Tuesday that the state is seeking proposals to convert the Employment Development Department building at 800 Capitol Mall, the EDD Solar Building at 751 N St., and the State Personnel Board building at 801 Capitol Mall into affordable housing. State agencies in all three buildings are expected to relocate in 2025.

At that time, the buildings “will be unlocked for potential development into new transit-oriented affordable housing,” the governor’s office said. The state has issued a request for qualifications to developers for the projects. The Department of General Services studied the EDD headquarters and found that the building could accommodate nearly 400 low-income housing units.

“The size and location of these three Capitol Mall buildings give us the opportunity to create a transit-friendly village with hundreds of new housing units — a project that will speed the evolution of our downtown away from reliance on office workers,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said in a news release from the governor’s office. “We will work with the state, our development partners, and the community around Capitol Mall to create something that truly enhances our city’s front door.”

The push to redevelop state properties into housing is part of an executive order Newsom signed in 2019 that directs state officials to identify excess state-owned property that could be transformed into affordable housing. The program has taken on more urgency since state workers moved to hybrid or work-from-home schedules in 2020, leaving downtown offices vacant.

A handful of other sites in Sacramento have already made Newsom’s list, including a plot where a 58-unit affordable housing building is under construction at 13th and O streets. A nonprofit developer is also proposing to construct a five-story affordable housing complex on the site of a vacant state-owned warehouse on R Street.

“Our excess land strategy is part of a multipronged approach to tackle the housing crisis in California,” Newsom said in a news release.

The Sacramento region faces a severe shortage of low-income housing. While significant progress has been made in recent months with the opening or funding of several large projects, Sacramento still has a gap of thousands of units to meet its affordable housing needs.

Some developers have expressed skepticism at the idea of turning large office buildings into housing. For instance, office towers often have centralized HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems, whereas in residential buildings each unit has its own set of utilities. In some cases, developers said, it might make more sense to tear down office towers and rebuild the sites with housing.

State officials seemed to acknowledge that in their Tuesday announcement.

“For the Capitol Mall properties, HCD (Department of Housing and Community Development) and DGS are interested in receiving statements of qualification for adaptive reuse of the existing office buildings but will consider alternative development visions should they better address the Executive Order’s guiding principles of affordability, construction cost efficiency, innovation, sustainability, and racial equity,” officials wrote in the news release.

©2023 The Sacramento Bee. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.