By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
It has been a long time since a new housing development has been built in the Kern River Valley (KRV), so it is an encouraging sight to see sixteen new rental homes rising from the ground in South Lake. A family who took a risk on KRV real estate forty years ago thinks it makes good business sense to build again now.
The elder Robert Younkin moved to the area in the 1970s and opened Robin Realty. He bought property on Lake Isabella Boulevard and built the first self-storage facility in the KRV. He and his son Robert then built other projects in the 1980s; some rental homes and Lake Mini Storage are still owned and operated by the family today.
After the Erskine Fire destroyed so many homes, the two younger generations of the Younkin family decided it would be a good time to build additional rental housing for the area. They recently bought four contiguous land parcels on the 4200 block of Cactus Street in South Lake from the Hafenfeld family and are in the process of constructing eight duplexes for a total of 16 rental units.
Local contractors Mike Smith and Jack Price are involved in the construction, and the manager and maintenance staff of Lake Mini Storage are assisting with the rental operations.
Grandson Robert Younkin said it was difficult getting funding for the project since a local community bank does not lend on multi-family housing, and banks in Bakersfield and Ridgecrest do not lend in the Lake Isabella area. “We feel we are uniquely qualified to do this given our history and that we have other properties and staff in place,” Younkin stated. “We see this as an opportunity to build again in a great recreational area, and we would not be dissuaded.” The family was able to make their own funding arrangements by building the units in two phases.
The Younkins’ goal is to build the best quality homes for the lowest rental price they can. It was important to them that The Alisal at South Lake units be energy-efficient to save on utility bills and create value for their residents. The two-bedroom, one-bath rentals will have all stainless steel appliances, central air/heat, a fenced yard and covered patio, and a single car garage which has the only shared wall between the duplex units. The regular monthly rent of $850 is being discounted for military, hospital, and dam employees.
The first of eight rental units will be available for occupancy in March. Ground was broken last week for construction of the second group of eight homes which are expected to be completed later this year.
In the meantime, the Younkin family will be learning what other rental unit sizes and pricing are most requested in the KRV. If this newest rental project is successful, they will consider building other units under the Alisal Properties KRV brand to meet those housing needs.
Younkin is convinced that within a few years the area will be better appreciated for its many benefits which would attract new residents to live and work in the KRV. To illustrate this point, he remarked that a tenant from outside of Kern County was the first to sign a lease on one of the new apartments due to the lower cost of living in such an attractive area of California.
“We really think there is an opportunity to do more things here, and not just housing-related. I would encourage people to bring their ideas to us because we have the energy and the ability to execute them,” said Younkin.
A ribbon-cutting celebration is being planned at The Alisal at South Lake in late February. More detailed information is available at the website www.alisalapartments.com or at www.facebook.com/alisalapartments.