Where is the Council Going with Affordable Housing?

Cesar Chavez housing in Davis

What does the future of affordable housing look like in Davis?  The council had the discussion and one thing that seemed clear from the comments, the city will no longer be able to have dedicated sites set aside on larger housing developments to build so-called big “a” affordable housing.

“Those days, for now, are done,” said Mayor Robb Davis. “We’re not getting any large developments that lead to that kind of availability to create the affordable set aside inside.  The Cannery might have been the last one.”

What the council favors instead are projects that integrate affordable housing within the project.  The council is in the process of reviewing inclusionary percentage in rental projects to see if they are stymying project proposals coming forward.

Mayor Robb Davis said “if our affordable 35 percent (requirement) is meaning that people are not going to build them, then it is time to review that.”

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson added, “Thirty-five percent of zero is still zero.”

She suggested that staff reach out to those building the projects to find out what some of the key financing issues are.  She said, “It should probably be lower than (35 percent) so that we do see it being built.”

The council is also concerned about student housing – not just about building for students, but creating affordable student housing.  Finally, with respect to impact fees, the council wants to look into a formula that is not just charging by the unit, but actually looking at the number of rooms and putting that back into balance.

Brett Lee, for example, sees a mismatch “between fees being based on front doors versus bedrooms.” He said he wanted to see the impact fees being based upon bedrooms. “I’d also like to see density
based upon bedrooms,” he said. He said it should not be how many units per acre but rather how many bedrooms per acre that is the key indicator of density. “I think it just is a more sensible policy to track the number of bedrooms.”

Mayor Pro Tem Lee noted that Sterling limited the occupancy to one student per bedroom, whereas Lincoln40 is looking at two students per bedroom. He said, “Given the extreme rental housing shortage, is it so far-fetched to say a year from now, well we’re going to have four per bedroom?” Given the shortage of rental units, “students would be willing to live in that situation.” But he wants that to count toward density.

Luke Watkins, a longtime affordable housing developer in Davis, told the Enterprise in a recent article that he views the move away from land-dedication sites means that “the city is heading in the wrong direction.”

In a lengthy email to council, which he copied to the Vanguard and others, Mr. Watkins said that one of the challenges is how a city serves households of people who are clearly struggling simply to survive.

From his perspective, the answer is not to “reduce the City’s affordable housing requirement” and it’s also not to “exempt certain project unit types” or to “allow accessory dwelling units to count as affordable units.”

He added, “And it’s not to require that the affordable units be integrated into market-rate student apartment complexes.”

He writes, “There seems to be some concern that market-rate apartments need more concessions from the City to make them economically feasible. While the City should definitely take some immediate cost-neutral specific steps to incentivize production of smaller unit types (like adjusting its density calculation and fees to reflect the size and bedroom count of each unit), it is not the inclusionary affordable housing requirement halting the production of market-rate apartments.”

From his perspective, “It is simply the lack of available zoned multifamily sites. The inclusionary requirement is of course a cost… but if the City’s inclusionary requirement can be met by having the developer donate land, or pay a reasonable in lieu fee, then it is a cost that can be absorbed into the sales price of the land.”

Luke Watkins also argues, “Exempting certain types of projects from the inclusionary requirement may seem like an innovative way to encourage downtown housing, or condominiums that will be more affordable than single family homes. However it undermines the City’s most critical affordable housing goals, and results in fewer resources to support the creation of special needs housing. There is a good reason to exempt smaller projects from the land dedication requirement, because a land dedication site needs to be big enough for at least 40 units, in order to reach the minimum necessary economy of scale.”

Mr. Watkins was critical of the Cannery agreement that allowed accessory dwelling units to meet the affordable housing requirement “without any rent limitation or income screening for the tenants.”  He said, “Even if there is income screening to ensure that the units go to households that need the affordable housing, what is the chance that very many of the units will be rented to a special needs household, who would have to pay a rent that is likely more than their entire monthly income?”

His biggest concern concedes that it is desirable to integrate the required affordable housing units into the market-rate housing projects.

But, he says, “our inclusionary housing policy does not require market-rate developers to provide units that are affordable to extremely low-income disabled households. So the 10% very low-income and 25% lower-income affordable housing requirements (which actually only total 26% of the market-rate units, because a density bonus is allowed) will never be affordable to the disabled households.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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34 thoughts on “Where is the Council Going with Affordable Housing?”

  1. Ron

    Wondering what the status is, regarding Affordable housing at the proposed Lincoln 40 proposal.  (I recall that there was none included in the proposal – is that correct?)

      1. Ron

        Thanks.  That’s what I thought.

        So, that proposal doesn’t meet the goal of integrating it, on-site.  Despite the fact that it’s a large development, and displaces existing low-income housing.

        Seems like an appropriate place to include Affordable housing on-site.

        In general, I agree with the goal of including Affordable housing within proposals, rather than “sticking them somewhere else”, in a more concentrated fashion (e.g., the upcoming densified Affordable housing development near Fifth and Pena, intended for those at risk of homelessness).

        1. Howard P

           that proposal doesn’t meet the goal of integrating it, on-site. 

          What ‘goal’?  Where is that written in GP or ordinance?  Comments made at a CC meeting long after the application was filed? [the ex post facto thing…]

          I agree with the goal of including Affordable housing within proposals,

          In your neighborhood?  I accept that as a goal in my neighborhood, but easy to say, as my neighborhood is developed.  Had affordable housing been incorporated in my neighborhood, would have made the same choice to live here… as it is, the affordable housing is ~500-600 feet away.  Do you say the same?

          Do you even support development of ANY housing?

  2. Ron

    Howard (quoting me):  ” . . . that proposal doesn’t meet the goal of integrating it, on-site.”

    Howard’s response:  “What ‘goal’?  Where is that written in GP or ordinance?”

    From article:  “What the council favors instead are projects that integrate affordable housing within the project.”

    1. Howard P

      The application was filed awhile back… do you hold to the principle that the CC can tell anyone what they need to do, at any time, based on the “policy du jour”?  There are legal and moral imperatives here.

      The proposal needs to conform to GP and City ordinance… CC gets to interpret that (within limits)… but not completely re-define it, for a proposal already submitted under the rules…

      1. Ron

        Not interested in participating in “loaded” questions, especially ones that aren’t explained (in regard to the quote that was cited). Are you stating that the council has to approve whatever a developer proposes?

        Just a moment ago, you stated the following (below):

        Howard:  “I support the concept of integrating ‘affordable’ with ‘market’…”

         

         

        1. Howard P

          Concepts are one thing… rules and regulations are another.  If the concept had been adopted and incorporated in the R&R’s, I’d not be making the points I have… yet, they haven’t been…

        2. Ron

          If I’m not mistaken, the “rules and regulations” (e.g., in the form of current zoning) do not even “allow for” the proposal.

          Do you support changing “rules and regulations” to allow for whatever a developer proposes?

           

           

        3. Howard P

          Not interested in participating in “loaded” questions, especially ones that aren’t explained (in regard to the quote that was cited).

          Ditto.

          Are you stating that the council has to approve whatever a developer proposes?

          No.   For you to even ask that, speaks volumes.

          I leave to you the last word on this… said my piece.

        4. Ron

          Howard:  “No.   For you to even ask that, speaks volumes.”

          If you’re going to ask me loaded questions, perhaps you should expect some in return.

          Look in the mirror, once in awhile.

      2. Howard P

        Was trying not to respond again, but was wRONg… the rules and regulations lay out the rules and regulations for requesting a change in zoning… in accordance with the R&R’s…  the place where you live, was re-zoned… get a clue…  “there are no so blind as they who will not see”…

        1. Ron

          Howard:  As usual, a “point without a point”.

          Yes, the city can change zoning.  It doesn’t mean that they have to.

          Again, you started this nonsensical conversation, essentially by suggesting that the council is obligated to approve Lincoln 40 “as is” (solely due to the fact that the application was submitted “some time ago”).

          Quite often, it seems that you just want to engage in nonsensical arguments (with those whose views you don’t like). At times, you also put forth your own incorrect “assumptions” regarding others, as you did yesterday. (You did acknowledge your error. Perhaps you could actually learn from it?)

           

  3. Ron

    Howard:  “Do you even support development of ANY housing?”

    Yes.  Examples include the proposal put forth by neighbors regarding Trackside, “reasonable” redevelopment of downtown, student housing on campus.

    In addition, there have been many proposals in which I haven’t expressed an opinion. I do not expect that others will always agree with me, regardless. Perhaps some commenters never agree with me, regarding housing and development.

  4. Howard P

    I support affordable housing, but am convinced that if we focus on SF ownership units, that’s going to be a Herculean row to hoe.

    I support MF affordable units… they could be set up to be condos, for the equity thing (not subject to rent increases)… I support MH parks, where the unit is affordable and owned (even if the land is leased)… I support the concept of integrating ‘affordable’ with ‘market’…

    The problem also is “sustainable” affordability… particularly given our vacancy rates, and market forces.

    1. Richard C

      I support MH parks, where the unit is affordable and owned (even if the land is leased)

      Yes, I think that we need to be looking at alternative housing where the cost of construction is much lower.  This would include mobile homes, manufactured homes, and even shipping containers that are modified to be used as housing.

      The big challenge to all of these alternatives is where would the development be located.  We can be certain that there will be opposition to all of these alternatives from the NIMBYs.

        1. Richard C

          …seems to be only one particular set, just east of Pole LIne.

          Don’t forget the “Royal Oak” manufactured home park in South Davis off of Research Park Drive.

  5. Eileen Samitz

    The best way for the City to have more affordable housing starts with UCD providing far more on-campus housing than they are proposing in their LRDP.

    Council member Brett Lee raises an excellent point that the developer impact fees are completely out of wack by developers being charged by the “unit” the same cost if it has 2 bedrooms or 10 bedrooms. The City is losing out on needed revenue and there is no incentive for developers to build smaller houses. They will make a lot ore money on a McMansion than on a smaller more affordable units. The City needs to fix this problem.

    Also, Ron makes an excellent point of how Lincoln40 does not want to include any affordable units, but instead is proposing a luxury mega-dorm renting by-the-bed with nothing for local workers or families. Instead of providing affordable units as well, they want to buy their way out of affordable housing with in-lieu fees like most of the other developers. Plus the in-lieu fees are also a great deal for the developers as well since $75,000 does not build an affordable unit. So all the developers are going to continue to get out of building affordable units if the City allows them to.

    Speaking of which, this is why the “vertical mixed-use” category in our zoning code needs to be eliminated because it completely excuses developers for any affordable housing including no “in-lieu” fees. Whose bad idea was that? This is what Nishi tried to get away with, and now MRIC is trying to get away with it as well with their 850-unit “mixed use alternative”. Developers are clearly going to try get away with not providing any affordable housing. 

    So why isn’t the Vanguard complaining about these impediments to affordable housing?

    1. David Greenwald

      “The best way for the City to have more affordable housing starts with UCD providing far more on-campus housing than they are proposing in their LRDP.”

      For one thing, I’m not sure I buy your reasoning.

      I’m also not sure why the council linked the impact fees to affordable housing, but I’m certainly not opposed to reevaluating such fees.

      On vertical mixed use, I think we have questions and not answers there.  If affordable housing requirements make them impractical, then 35% of 0 is still 0.

    2. Ron

      Eileen:  “Council member Brett Lee raises an excellent point that the developer impact fees are completely out of wack by developers being charged by the “unit” the same cost if it has 2 bedrooms or 10 bedrooms.”

      Actually, for proposals such as Lincoln 40 (which is apparently planned for double-occupancy per bedroom), it might be more accurate to allocate fees using the planned number of “beds” (not bedrooms).  This would provide a more accurate outcome, regarding the appropriate amount of development fees (which are supposed to be allocated based upon the impacts of new residents).

      I recall that the article from yesterday briefly mentioned “beds” vs. “bedrooms”.

      1. Eric Gelber

        it might be more accurate to allocate fees using the planned number of “beds” (not bedrooms). 

        Unless we’re talking about a dormitory type project, I’m not sure how it can be known how many beds there will be–i.e., what size household will be living in–say, a 2 or 3 bedroom living unit.

        1. Ron

          Eric:  I understand that about half of the bedrooms at Lincoln 40 are being planned for double-occupancy. 

          708 planned beds, total.  (I believe this is documented.)

        2. Ron

          From draft EIR:  “The proposed project would include a mix of two-bedroom to five-bedroom fully-furnished units, each approximately 1,024 to 1,797 sf in size. The proposed project would include 473 bedrooms, of which 235 bedrooms would be designed as double-occupancy rooms resulting in a total of 708 beds.”

          http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/CityCouncil/Documents/PDF/CDD/Planning/Project-Applications/Lincoln40/DEIR%20Lincoln40/1_Introduction_Lincoln40_DEIR_Vol_I.pdf

           

           

        3. David Greenwald

          And I still wonder if beds/ bedrooms is the best metric if you are looking at impacts.  One question to ask is what impacts are being mitigated and are they additive?

        4. Ron

          A brief overview, which may not address all of the costs that impact fees are supposed to address:

          “Development Impact Fees are one time charges applied to new developments. Their goal is to raise revenue for the construction or expansion of capital facilities located outside the boundaries of the new development that benefit the contributing development (Nicholas, et al., 1991). Impact fees are assessed and dedicated principally for the provision of additional water and sewer systems, roads, schools, libraries and parks and recreation facilities made necessary by the presence of new residents in the area.” http://www.impactfees.com/publications%20pdf/dif.pdf

           

        5. Howard P

          Or, how many people/bed…  for me, I prefer two…

          So… current SF rates assumes ~ 2.5 people per unit, regardless of # of bedrooms… not all bedrooms are used as bedrooms… so a 2 person household, who have 3 bedrooms, two of which are used as home offices have the same impact as a 4-5 person household in a 3 bedroom house… got it… NOT!

      2. Howard P

        So, different rates for a single/twin bed, and a queen or king? gets to # of people, after all…

        And then would two people not ‘sleeping together’ pay double what a couple sharing a queen/king bed?  Very weird…

        And, a single person (one bed), buying/renting a 3 Br unit is charged for 1 bed, but if they get ‘lucky’, add a spouse, and say, 3 kids, they have no additional impact than when they were single and had one bed?

  6. Ron

    Some are trying to make this more complicated than it actually is (at least in the case of Lincoln 40).  As noted in the draft EIR, the proposed development is designed to house 708 new residents, each with their own lease.  (Seems unlikely that even the developer would disagree with that.)

    “The proposed project would include a mix of two-bedroom to five-bedroom fully-furnished units, each approximately 1,024 to 1,797 sf in size. The proposed project would include 473 bedrooms, of which 235 bedrooms would be designed as double-occupancy rooms resulting in a total of 708 beds. Double-occupancy would not be allowed in any other rooms. It should also be noted that no more than two tenants would be allowed in double-occupancy rooms. Unlike traditional apartments, the proposed project would be leased by the bed and not by the unit.”

    http://documents.cityofdavis.org/Media/CityCouncil/Documents/PDF/CDD/Planning/Project-Applications/Lincoln40/DEIR%20Lincoln40/1_Introduction_Lincoln40_DEIR_Vol_I.pdf

     

  7. Howard P

    Disturbing quotes:

    an excellent point that the developer impact fees are completely out of wack by developers being charged by the “unit” the same cost if it has 2 bedrooms or 10 bedrooms. The City is losing out on needed revenue

    The disturbing parts:  have not heard anything about a 10 bedroom unit… hyperbole?  worse? Also, impact fees do not go to the GF… has to go to capital expansion.  No O&M…

    I’m also not sure why the council linked the impact fees to affordable housing, but I’m certainly not opposed to reevaluating such fees.

    If affordable housing is given a “discount” on impact fees, the difference has to be made up with GF monies… by law, it can not be re-apportioned to other development.

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