Council Action Will Gut City’s Affordable Housing Program, Housing Advocates Fear


AffordableHousingInclusion of Granny Flats Counting Toward 50% of Affordable Housing Requirements a Key Point of Contention – By a narrow 3-2 vote the Davis City Council on Tuesday night agreed to make what advocates fear are sweeping and detrimental changes to the city’s Affordable Housing Ordinance.  The biggest concern is the provision that would allow credit for Accessory Dwelling Units (Granny Flats or ADUs) to count toward inclusionary requirements on a 50 percent basis.

The substitute motion made by Councilmember Brett Lee and joined by Rochelle Swanson and Mayor Joe Krovoza was opposed by Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, who had supported an original motion that would have struck the credit for ADUs.

The staff reported noted that “the City has struggled with policy issues around appropriate allocation of profits in rising markets or losses in declining markets.”

In the wake of the loss of RDA funding, the city has limited options, given Measure R’s limitations for new large housing projects on Davis’ periphery.

As a result, staff believes, “Single-family subdivisions 200 units or smaller would likely provide many of their affordable housing units through either accessory dwelling units or in-lieu fees. This would result in fewer affordable ownership units targeted to moderate-income households.”

They argue, “Granting credit for accessory dwelling units would likely encourage and increase the housing supply for one- and two-person households. Absent inclusionary units, this is an area that has not been accommodated in recent market-priced developments.”

The city’s new planning director Mike Webb referenced a survey that shows that almost all ADUs are rented, and rented at low or very low affordable rental rates.  He noted that the city does know who rents those units – working adults, graduate students, and some by retired adults.

“It’s a range of different household types in those units,” Mr. Webb told council.

“We also heard the recurring comment that these units don’t provide for the necessary space for family living,” he said.  “We’re not trying to suggest that they do.  We are proposing an approach that really takes a multitude of different housing types into account and to really try to expand on those opportunities.”

“No, ADUs are not going to provide the ideal living environment for all the types of population in the community that we’re trying to target,” he acknowledged.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton said with the loss of redevelopment, affordable housing lost about 90% of its revenue.

“There’s so many other demands on our dollars that affordable housing is getting the short end of the stick,” he said.  “We knew that we had to look at our ordinance that twenty five years ago made a lot of sense but makes no sense today.”

He separated those subdivisions that are 200 units or more from those with less.

“With 200 or more clearly there’s room to accommodate and you have to dedicate land for an affordable housing site,” he said.

The gorilla in the room is the Cannery site, which some believe will be the only new large subdivision in Davis, perhaps in the next 20 to 25 years, unless something happens with PG&E or some of the larger infill sites.

“Given the incredible constraints that have been put on this community by Measures J and R, the reality is that we’re going to just try to do small infill whenever we can and large subdivisions are pretty much done unless something miraculous happens in the rest of this decade,” he said.

Mr. Pinkerton noted, “The vast majority of the times you would see the in-lieu fee or the ADU being executed… would be on subdivisions of 200 or less where there never would have been any money going towards rental housing or any rental housing being created in the first place.”

But affordable housing advocates disagreed.

Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk said he was wrestling with the ADU issue.

“I support ADUs as just a general housing option,” Mr. Wolk said.  “But then there’s crediting it for purposes of satisfying the affordable housing (requirements).  I’m just not sold… that the accessory dwelling units would be affordable.”

“I completely understand the value of ADUs in a grander concept, in terms of offering denser housing and offering a range of housing,” he added.  “But in terms of satisfying affordability requirements I do think that the ADUs just don’t get us there.  I think it is a step back in that sense.”

Lucas Frerichs argued that the city needed to focus on rental housing for low and very low income people.

“I’m fine with ADUs,” he said.  “I love ADUs and advocated for them heavily in the past, but not when there’s no monitoring or insurance that affordable housing is actually going to be produced.”

He was also concerned that the 200 unit number was somewhat arbitrary as a reference for in lieu fees.  Ultimately, council decided it would have discretion to allow in-lieu fees as an option in any project for up to 50% of affordable housing requirement.

That provision would do two things.  First, it would allow the council to assess the proposal.  But second, it would ensure that in large subdivisions, there would be on-site affordable housing.

Housing advocates came out in droves last night to oppose some of the provisions of the ordinance.

In February the Social Services Commission had a forum that was heavily attended on the subject of affordable housing.  According to the staff report, “The recommendations of the Commission were to support staff recommendations for targeting toward rental housing for very-low income households and support the graduated scale for inclusionary obligations. The Commission did not support allowing credit for accessory dwelling units.”

The commission did recommend that there be requirements for discretionary approval for a project to pay in-lieu fees, and that recommendation would seem to be supported by the council clarification.

However, the ADUs remain a concern.

In a March letter from Alysa Meyer, the managing attorney at Legal Services of Northern California, she noted staff’s continued support for the ADUs despite a 5-2 vote against it by the Social Services Commission.

Ms. Meyer writes, “Legal Services of Northern California opposes providing a 50% credit for accessory dwelling units absent a program to monitor and ensure that at least 50% of the ADUs are affordable to and occupied by lower income households.”

“There is nothing in the report to indicate that the property owners intended to build the ADUs to provide affordable rental housing. Given the vast number of homeowners who turn out to public meetings to oppose any affordable multi-family rental project, it seems rather unlikely that homeowners would construct an ADU for the purpose of providing affordable housing to low income tenants,” she continues.

She argues that she sees it as “unlikely” that the city has the staffing resources to track and monitor second units to ensure they are affordable, as the staff report indicates that the city has “limited administrative resources …. “

“In fact, permitting accessory units as inclusionary housing excludes families with children or people with live-in caregiver needs who need more space than an accessory unit provides,” Ms. Meyer argued.

She writes, citing California Government Code, “In order to include sites for second units in the next housing element toward meeting the City’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment, the City must consider the need for second units based on tenure, family type, household sizes, and other factors in relation to types of units, the resources or incentives available for their development, and other relevant factors such as the anticipated affordability of second units.”

These concerns appear to remain in place several months later.

As the Sacramento Housing Alliance staff attorney noted, “The staff report doesn’t provide adequate assurances that these units would indeed be rented to low and very low income households.”

“City staff admits it doesn’t have time or resources to complete a compliance plan,” he added.  “The state department of housing and development has informed city staff through SACOG that ADUs should only be counted  through a juridiction’s regional housing need when mechanisms to assure affordability are available.”

“To say that we can simply add these ADUs to reach the city’s affordability requirements is simply false,” he stated.

Mindy Romero from the Social Services Commission, and the Chair of Yolo Mutual Housing Association, expressed a number of concerns about the ADUs provision.

She said that the commission voted down the provision, however, asked staff for additional evidence.  While she complimented staff for following through, she said, “It still doesn’t really satisfy many of the concerns that we had.”

The data collected by staff, “tells us a little of the story but it doesn’t tell us enough.  It doesn’t provide enough evidence to alleviate those concerns.”

She was concerned that ADUs simply do not meet the needs of people with families and people who are in the low income category.

Looking concretely at Cannery, she said, “(The Commission) calculated that with the proposed changes we would lose probably about 20 units at that site, that’s affordable homes for families living in Davis now.”

Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope as well as several in the business community and the development community came out in favor of the affordable housing changes.

In a policy statement put out by the Chamber, they argued, “Policy decisions should be data-driven. In the absence of current data, the Chamber recommends maintaining a mixed inventory of affordable housing types, not simply “very low income”. Further, there should be diversity in the types of affordable housing available. For example, there is a large amount of apartment communities available, which should be considered market-rate affordable.”

With regard to counting ADUs toward regional housing needs, the Chamber “recommends the City consider the possibility of a “cap and trade” model. The option to buy, sell and/or trade second units to meet the affordable housing need presents some innovative possibilities for Davis to achieve greater densification while providing affordable housing opportunities.”

Mayor Joe Krovoza did push through an amendment that would sunset the ADU provision on December 31, 2015.

That motion eventually carried by the same 3-2 vote, with Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs dissenting.

Following the vote, Mayor Pro Tem Dan Wolk told the Vanguard, “(This) was a key vote for those of us interested in social justice.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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36 thoughts on “Council Action Will Gut City’s Affordable Housing Program, Housing Advocates Fear”

  1. SouthofDavis

    Earlier this year I saw that a Vanguard advertiser was renting the former GAMAT homes for the city of Davis.

    The rent for the “subsidized by the taxpayer” 2 bedroom unit was $1,117/month with a maximum household income of $71,350 (some of the “affordable” for sale homes let a family make close to $100K).

    The rent at the same time (March 2013) for a 2 bedroom unit at the “private profit making” College Square Apartments was $900 with a minimum income of $16,200 per person (if two people moved in).

    The brand new 69 unit New Harmony apartment on Cowell made a lot of people a lot of money building the ~$30 million project, but rents are just slightly lower than other rental units in town.

    In the end we need to ask do we want to help poor people live in Davis or do we want to spend millions building and running an “affordable” housing program.

  2. medwoman


    [quote]In the end we need to ask do we want to help poor people live in Davis or do we want to spend millions building and running an “affordable” housing program. [/quote]

    I would prefer the former. What would your suggestion be ?

  3. SODA

    was there discussion of the rules of our program, reselling guidelines, profit maximums etc? There have been abuses in the past and I would hope any loopholes or confusion would be addressed….and then there’s DACHA experience.
    So granny flats are only one issue, me thinks.
    New Harmony is massive, on a huge footprint and much taller than anything in sight……

  4. SODA

    yes, medwoman and the question of the day is: Has our affordable program done this; will it?
    I liked the idea promoted by Steve Souza to use funds to help with down payments…..seems cleaner; we aren’t a landlord; issue of reselling less, etc. What do you think of that as achieving ‘the former’ medwoman?

  5. SouthofDavis

    SODA wrote:

    > the question of the day is: Has our affordable
    > program done this; will it?

    The only thing that the “affordable” housing program in Davis has done for the “poor”(defined as making up to $66,600 for a single person and up to $107,050 for a family on the City of Davis Web site) is made a small number of NEW homes and apartments a “little” more affordable but still “more expensive” than OLDER homes and apartments in town. If we really want to help poor people we will tell them that is nice to live in a new apartment or buy a new home, but if they ever want to get ahead they should be renting or buying a cheaper home and building up some savings.

    Anyone that thinks the Davis “affordable” housing program works great should want to apply it to the auto dealers in town so we can force them to sell 20% of their new Honda Civics at 20% off so “poor” families (making $107K) can get a NEW Civic for $15K rather than having to buy a 5 year old (that is still 10 years NEWER than my car) Civic for $10K. The Davis “affordable” car program would need a bunch of city workers (with fully funded pensions) to manage it and would also allow millions to flow to third party campaign donors (companies like the politically connected NeighborWorks® that makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees every time the “affordable” units at the BMR Southfield condos change hands).

    > I liked the idea promoted by Steve Souza to use
    > funds to help with down payments…..seems cleaner;
    > we aren’t a landlord; issue of reselling less, etc.

    Giving money to the poor to “buy” homes is crazy. Why can’t the “poor” just rent a place in town (until they save up to buy a home like most of us did)? Why do I (or anyone) need to “help” a family making $100K+ with a down payment? If you want to keep the property “affordable” (and avoid problems like the one on the link below) you still need to pay huge amounts of money going forward (that would be better spent helping the really poor rent a place) to manage the program and keep the home “affordable”.

  6. Davis Progressive

    this is a tragic decision by council. having adu’s is no substitute for real affordable housing for families. no family is going to move into a granny flat.

    i’m rethinking my decision for assembly and starting to re-examine dan wolk here.

  7. Don Shor

    [quote] having adu’s is no substitute for real affordable housing for families.[/quote]
    ADU’s provide lower cost housing for individuals. I have noticed that the focus of affordable housing advocates is on families, while my guess is the highest proportion of people needing lower-cost housing in Davis would be young adults. They support programs that provide a small number of affordable houses for families, while doing nothing to increase the availability of less expensive apartments.
    Affordable housing = apartments. Work to reduce the vacancy rate. Increase the stock of apartments, duplexes, and mobile units. Rezone for greater density, particularly on new subdivisions.
    Anyone who supports the Cannery project being comprised largely of detached homes in the $500K range is not an advocate for affordable housing, and has no basis for making comments about ‘social justice’.

  8. SouthofDavis

    Alysa Meyer (the managing attorney at Legal Services of Northern California) wrote:

    > it seems rather unlikely that homeowners would
    > construct an ADU for the purpose of providing
    > affordable housing to low income tenants,” she
    > continues.

    If you define “low income tenants” as “tenants with low incomes” there are plenty of people that would love to rent their ADU to a UCD grad student with under $1K/month extra cash or a grandma on Social Security that is moving to Davis to be closer to her grandkids.

    If you define “low income tenants” as “tenants with low incomes who are on government assistance since they don’t want to work who hang out all day causing problems” (that people like Alysa Meyer and the Legal Services of Northern California work to bail them out of) Ms. Meyer is correct that it may be hard to find a rental ADU in Davis.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    Don: we have had a movement toward ADU’s anyway, what is the need to count them towards 50% of the affordable housing allocations?

  10. Don Shor

    [quote]> it seems rather unlikely that homeowners would
    > construct an ADU for the purpose of providing
    > affordable housing to low income tenants,” she
    > continues. [/quote]

    [quote]defined as making up to $66,600 for a single person[/quote]

    Seems it would be pretty easy to do a survey. The city does have data on these ‘garden apartments’ as the ADU’s are called in their housing info. I suspect many, perhaps most, of the people living in the ADU’s make less than $66,000. Whether the unit was constructed ‘for that purpose’ is another question.

  11. Ryan Kelly

    I think we have an abundance of low income housing in Davis to meet the needs of existing residents. Financial assistance for last & deposits, fees to turn on utilities, etc. may all that may be needed to help most families. Child care subsidies may be more important to lower income working families.

  12. Don Shor

    [quote]Don: we have had a movement toward ADU’s anyway, what is the need to count them towards 50% of the affordable housing allocations?[/quote]
    Perhaps to encourage people to build more of them.
    I consider this a first step toward a much more comprehensive view of affordable housing. What you have right now is a relic program that is not effective. Affordable housing is being defined in a way that is not appropriate to the demographics and realities of Davis.
    [quote]Mike Webb referenced a survey that shows that almost all ADUs are rented, and rented at low or very low affordable rental rates. He noted that the city does know who rents those units – working adults, graduate students, and some by retired adults.[/quote]
    The ADU’s are, in fact, helping to solve the affordable housing problem. So I’d turn your question around on you. What is the purpose of maintaining inflexible and unrealistic rules for what constitutes affordable housing?

  13. David M. Greenwald

    Because are only going to have limited opportunities given the loss of RDA and growth restrictions (that I support) to build affordable housing for young families to move in, and anything that enables developers to avoid putting in those kinds of housing is detrimental to the goal.

  14. David M. Greenwald

    “I think we have an abundance of low income housing in Davis to meet the needs of existing residents. “

    Quantify that comment Ryan, because I strongly disagree.

  15. David M. Greenwald

    And Don, remember as Lucas pointed out, this whole discussion is about Con Agra, so why should ConAgra be able to use ADUs rather than provide on-site affordable housing for low and moderate income families?

  16. Don Shor

    [quote]affordable housing for young families to move in[/quote]
    Why do you focus on young families? My employees, my kids, their friends are all young adults without kids. They need affordable housing. There are probably a lot more of them than there are of your young families. I think you and Dan and Lucas have a built-in bias on this issue. And that comes from the fact that you are young families. The vacancy rate in our apartments has never, in all the years I’ve lived here, been at 5%. People who rent here pay a premium because of the lack of rental housing for young adults.
    Con-Agra should be mandated to higher housing densities. I have said this over and over. Higher densities produce more affordable housing. But if the larger units there have ADU’s, those have, in fact, provided some affordable housing as well. As Mike Webb has stated, most of those get rented at low rates.

  17. Ryan Kelly

    I think there is not “low income” housing if it is defined as a family only paying 1/3 of their income to housing. But that is not today’s reality. Families are paying 50-60% of their income for housing. With child care becoming the biggest expense for families (often as much as their rent), child care subsidies or affordable child care would help more.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    “Why do you focus on young families?”

    My own bias, I suppose. My desire also for families to still be able to afford to live in Davis and send their kids to our schools.

  19. David M. Greenwald

    Ryan: I’m still trying to find the figure I had from a few years ago, but the number of true affordable units is in the hundreds in town.

  20. K.Smith

    [quote]… making up to $66,600 for a single person and up to $107,050 for a family…[/quote]
    On what planet are these figures even remotely considered “poor”?

    By these standards, my family is absolutely destitute. Sheesh!

  21. David M. Greenwald

    I was asking you. From what I understand, that’s not a bad rate. You’ll be paying less than what the above median people in the former DACHA homes will be paying. If you were in an affordable however, you could be paying about $1200 per month up to that $66K mark. That’s an extra $4800 or so for other things.

  22. K.Smith

    No–it’s not a horrible rate, and we definitely have to budget, but those caps seem a smidgen too high to be considered “poor.” Especially for a single person, or a family of three (or even four).

    The idea that a family of three can get “low income” housing and make $107,000/year seems a bit ridiculous (and I’m very, very liberal).

  23. David M. Greenwald

    Technically, it’s not low income. $66K is median. $107K I think is 120% of median. I’m not disagreeing with you necessarily, btw.

  24. SouthofDavis

    K.Smith wrote:

    > The idea that a family of three can get “low income”
    > housing and make $107,000/year seems a bit ridiculous
    > (and I’m very, very liberal).

    A family with three kids can “only” make $99,700 and still qualify for the city of Davis “Affordable Ownership Housing Program” (you need to have a 4th kid or two kids and your parents living with you to make “over $100K and still qualify for “affordable” housing)…

    When a “liberal” politician says they “want to help the poor get housing” more often than not what they really mean is they “want to pretend to help the poor and funnel cash to wealthy campaign donors that own land, construction firms and management companies (just like the “conservative” politicians that say they want to “make America safer” really just want to “send tons of taxpayer money to big campaign donors)…

    The city of Davis has wasted at least a million dollars over the past few years on the 20 DACHA homes (including the $330K cash settlement to Twin Pines they paid earlier this year) and over the past few years the homes have averaged a 50% vacancy rate (as Don mentions above in a city with

  25. SouthofDavis

    I forgot you can’s use the “less than” sign:

    less than a 5% vacancy rate). The Pacifico Student Housing Cooperative at the end Drew Circle that backs on to the bike path has averaged over a 50% vacancy rate for close to TEN (10) YEARS!! I’ve been riding by Pacifico on a regular basis for over 5 years I have not seen any attempt at all to make the unocupied buildings ready to rent.

    Let’s hope that liberals, moderates (and even the few conservatives in town) can work together to help the poor (the “real poor” not “$100K poor”) find a place to live (the million wasted on DACHA could have helped hundreds of poor people) and get the city (and politically connected donors) out of the housing business…

    P.S. It looks like the DACHA properties will be all rented (if they are not already) now that Twin Pines has been paid off, but does anyone have any idea why Pacifico has been such a mess and sitting half empty (or more) for the past TEN YEARS?

  26. medwoman


    [quote]I liked the idea promoted by Steve Souza to use funds to help with down payments…..seems cleaner; we aren’t a landlord; issue of reselling less, etc. What do you think of that as achieving ‘the former’ medwoman?[/quote]

    I really wish I had been there for this city council meeting. I unfortunately am not well enough informed regarding housing to know whether or not this may be beneficial. My initial thoughts regarding this issue are scattered and I realize do not constitute a cohesive view, but I am willing to share, mostly to elicit the thoughts of others.

    1) I do not think that a one time provision of aide to help with down payments is a particularly good idea for a couple of reasons. First, it rests on the idea that once the individual or family is in the home, they will be able to continue to afford the payments and upkeep. This may or may not be true, however, I do believe that it encourages potential buyers to make purchases above their “comfort” level which may lead to an increase in forced sales, or foreclosures if they cannot maintain payments. I see a slightly less drastic version of this in young doctors within our group who get “help” with their first home purchase in terms of help with a down payment. It is not unusual for their desires to exceed their income. For doctors this is not such a huge issues since many can increase their salary by choosing to work more hours. This is certainly not true across all professions or jobs. Also it promotes a concept that bigger or more luxurious is necessarily better, which I do not think is a good attitude to start out with in considering housing choices.

    2) I am uncertain about the utility of granny flats as a means of increasing low cost housing.
    I can see a few possible advantageous outcomes of the granny flat. 1. If purchased by a young family the granny flat could be used by a grand parent for whatever contribution they could make and possibly a contribution to child care thus strengthening both the income and the family ties. 2.Alternatively it could be used by a nanny with the benefits of having child care very close at hand and allowing the nanny to save money on both housing and transportation costs allowing them to save for their own future apartment or starter home. As the family’s children age, it could be used by them rather than having to rent a more expensive apartment elsewhere and might also promote family bonding while still providing more privacy, and possibly sanity for all family members. 3. Once the children are away or established in alternative settings this could be used as an income generating yet affordable rental. 4. When the children themselves are of an age to start their own families, some might chose to come back to the family home occupying the main house while the now aging couple or parent occupies the “granny flat”. Lots of possibilities, but only useful if the rent is maintained at an affordable rate.

    3. I still keep coming back to Don Shor’s often stated comment that if we really want affordable housing, we will
    support affordable apartments. It seems to me that part of the problem is that we have become a society in which many individuals want material comforts without necessarily having to do the hard work and save money over time to afford them. When I hear folks promoting developments such as the Cannery which in my opinion does very little to support truly affordable housing and to me represents nothing more than a slightly dressed up upper middle class car dependent bedroom community, I really question the commitment of its supporters to “low cost housing”.

    So once again, I am very, very naive in this area but welcome people’s thoughts about my thoughts.

  27. Mr.Toad

    So what happens at Cannery? Do the developers increase their margins or decrease their prices? My guess is they increase their margins. Of course if we did lots more development to saturate the market with all kinds of housing we could make housing more affordable but as long as we continue to restrict supply we will never get there.

  28. hpierce

    There is “affordable housing”, and there is “for sale” affordable housing. I support the former, but less the latter, unless the City promotes condo’s and/or mobile home parks.

  29. akelker71

    If the politicians weren’t so greedy there would be enough to go around. Our governments waste so much money on greed, salaries, pet projects, and looking out for their friends and families that they miss the real purpose of why they’re in office – [url][/url]

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