Of the 115 townhouses built by Cottage Health System at the former site of St. Francis Hospital, all but one or two have been sold, occupied, or are in escrow. Eighty-one were sold at below-market rates to Cottage employees as part of a corporate subsidy program designed to attract and retain employees. Of what Cottage is now calling its 81 “professional” units — formerly known as “workforce” housing — 25 were purchased by Cottage RNs, 26 by clinical staff, 21 by nonclinical staff (employees performing administrative functions like fundraising rather than direct patient care), and nine by medical students completing their residency programs.
The professional units ranged in price from $187,000 for a one-bedroom to $475,000 for a three-bedroom. The average price was $242,000 for a two-bedroom unit. The maximum household income for employees qualifying for the program was $130,000 a year. The 34 market-rate units — dubbed “traditional” — were significantly larger and more expensive, ranging in price from $610,000 to $1 million. Cottage administrators estimate the housing project — named Bella Riviera — lost the health-care institution $15 million; that’s the gap between what it cost to build and revenues generated by sales.
Initially, 250 employees sought to purchase the 81 units. Not all qualified for financing; some concluded they could do better on the private market with its record-low interest rates and relatively low prices. The 81 units are bound by resale controls, meaning that the owners can only realize limited profits if and when they sell. Should a Cottage worker cease to be employed by Cottage for any reason — a typical residency lasts only five years, for example — they have six months in which to sell.