SONOMA, CA—Due to the aging Baby Boomer segment, California’s senior population has been growing at a rapid pace for the past few years. Now, with the onset of an unprecedented pandemic that has sent unemployment rates soaring higher than during the Great Depression, providing affordable and safe housing for seniors and other vulnerable populations is suddenly even more crucial.

Looking to ease the affordable housing crisis that plagues the Bay Area, MBH Architects in collaboration with Jon Worden Architects assisted MidPen Housing Corporation in designing Fetters and Celestina Garden Apartments. This master-planned multi-generational affordable rental housing development for low-income families was made possible with tax credits and multiple layers of financing.

“Fetters and Celestina, both 100% affordable, would not have been able to be built with this level of affordability by traditional financing,” Rick Christiani, principal and architect of MBH Architects, tells “These developments were made possible through MidPen Housing’s commitment to and history of providing high-quality affordable housing that is integrated into the surrounding community. Because they develop and manage their properties, they have established multiple layers of financing and use of tax credits that they can use to make their proforma work.”

Fetters Apartments, the first phase in the development, consists of 60 units with one to three bedrooms spread across five buildings located at 200 Dorene Way. Celestina Garden Apartments, the second phase, is connected to Fetters Apartments. The apartment offers 37 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom apartments.

The project was named after Celestina Vailetti as an homage to the matriarch of the developer’s family. It provides 40 affordable units for low-income seniors with eight units reserved for homeless seniors as well as seniors displaced by the 2017 Sonoma County wildfires.

Spread across 40,066 square feet, the three-story Celestina Gardens is located in a neighborhood traditionally surrounded by one- to two-story structures. The property has a 9,000-square-foot community garden comprised of planter beds. An entry trellis leads residents into a courtyard with landscaping created by Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning, and various seating arrangements.

Past the courtyards is an enclosed two-story shared space featuring a communal kitchen and an open floorplan. The building also houses a community gym which features views of the valley, and a bike path connects the development with the larger community.

Environmentally friendly design elements in each property include low VOC coatings and sealants, cabinetry with no added urea formaldehyde, GREENGUARD-certified flooring and Energy Star appliances. Efficient heating and cooling equipment regulate each unit, while solar thermal panels on the building’s exterior preheat water used by the entire community. In addition, photovoltaic panels provide clean energy for all indoor common areas as well as landscape lighting.

Both developments provide residents with amenities including accessibility to a community garden, a public bike and pedestrian trail, and children’s playgrounds.

Cushman & Wakefield recently released a new report on the growing shift to the suburbs, especially as COVID-19 changes the way people live. The in-demand suburb of the 2020s may not look like what has been the norm in decades past. The most attractive suburbs offer the best of the city center without some of the challenges, says Cushman & Wakefield.