New affordable housing development funded for F Street

By Sam Morgen
This article was first published by The Bakersfield Californian

CityServe building.

Rod Thornburg/For The Californian

The parking lot previously serving the Montgomery Ward shopping center will soon contain the city’s newest affordable housing development.

The CityServe Network, a Bakersfield-based collection of churches, and the Housing Authority of the County of Kern have received a $29.9 million state grant to build 126 units of affordable housing. About 28 percent of the units will be reserved for foster youth, with the remainder serving the general population.

The grant requires CityServe to finish construction by the end of the year. The multistory building is planned to sit along F Street, not only bringing much-needed affordable housing to the area, but contributing to downtown’s revitalization.

Tenants will have access to drug rehabilitation and job training programs, as well as counseling and family reunification for those who need it.

“It’s a very unique opportunity for the community,” said Crissy Cochran, executive director of communications at CityServe. “There’s a whole bunch of different services that we’re able to give to help these people get back on their feet.”

The new structure will sit outside of CityServe’s headquarters, in the old Montgomery Ward building on F Street. Founded in 2017 by Canyon Hills Assembly of God Pastor Wendell Vinson with Dave Donaldson, then director at Convoy of Hope, an international relief organization, CityServe has quickly expanded as a food and resources distributor to the needy across 10 states.

The faith-based nonprofit says it distributed $424 million worth of resources to 8.4 million people in 2021. Now, it is branching out into affordable housing.

“This really aligns with the CityServe vision and mission,” Cochran said. “We want to just be able to help people in the community, bring the church to the table as a catalyst for community transformation.”

The new building will also fulfill a city goal of bringing more people within walking distance of downtown. The area around F Street had previously been neglected, with no tenants occupying the old Montgomery Ward building. But when the owner donated the property to CityServe, a key piece of downtown found its use.

“This is just another feather in our cap for downtown Bakersfield in terms of that revitalization,” said Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales. “The building itself is going to be beautiful. The fact that you have more people actually living in the area, activating that space in a positive way, will be a benefit for the area.”

The CityServe plan is the latest from Project Homekey to benefit the city of Bakersfield. Under the California Department of Housing and Urban Development program, the Housing Authority has already received $16.1 million in the past few months for two affordable housing developments.

The $2.8 billion project is meant to address the critical shortage of housing throughout the state. In 2020, the county received $15 million from the program.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to provide good housing for persons in need,” Bakersfield Mayor Karen Goh said in a news release. “It will enable community leaders to offer more comprehensive support for those who want a better life.”