One of the challenges that has become more clear in recent months is the challenge of building housing for families. While some have argued for the need to develop smaller apartments – one to three bedrooms – which would accommodate families, the Vanguard has pointed out that market rate apartments are prohibitively expensive for families.
That means, in order to create affordable housing, we will need to go smaller and produce affordable-by-design apartments, which will also be challenging for families or subsidized “big A” affordable housing.
There are a lot of barriers to affordable housing in Davis, some of which were brought up at the October affordable housing workshop which the city council held. The council made it clear that they preferred housing that is integrated. As Brett Lee put it, there are problems with separate affordable and market rate developments.
He explained, “The social research that I’ve seen seems to indicate that… when people are fully integrated it provides better outcomes for all involved. So my strong preference would be, unless there’s a reason to not do that, (integration) would be my preference.”
But, while that sounds good, it also limits some of the options for affordable housing in town, as there are likely to be only limited numbers of housing sites that are buildable at this point, given
Measure R and other restrictions.
Council is also looking at affordable rental units rather than for-sale units.
As Robb Davis noted in October, in the past the city built larger housing developments which enabled them to have relatively large dedicated sites to build large “A” affordable housing.
“Those days now largely are done,” he said. “We aren’t getting any large developments like that that lead to that kind of ability to create the affordable set aside inside.”
While the West Davis senior housing development would have a land dedication site, most of the newer developments do not have such sites. That again limits the amount of affordable housing which can be built.
Then a final major challenge is money. In October, Robb Davis has noted that the city used to get about $2 million a year from Redevelopment Agency funds which could support such affordable housing projects. With the loss of RDA, that revenue stream is gone.
“We do need a revenue stream just to make sure we maintain some of the housing that’s aging now,” he said.
Where does that money come from? Recently the city has been funding its affordable housing through in-lieu fees. But council seems to want to move away from in-lieu fees and toward more onsite affordable housing.
Mayor Davis explained in October that he has been in favor of them because of our trust fund, but he wants to find other funding sources so they can move away from in-lieu fees. “Just do away (with) in-lieu fees in my opinion,” he said, but we need to find a revenue stream and then set in-lieu fees really high to disincentivize their use.
Recently the state has created a funding source through SB 2. Sponsored by Senator Toni Atkins, SB 2 would created a permanent funding source for affordable housing by imposing fees up to $225 on certain real estate transactions. It is expected to collect $1.2 billion annually over the next five years, creating a $5.8 fund. Also SB 3 would place a $4 billion housing bond on a future ballot that would pay for existing affordable housing programs in California that used to be supported by funds from the state’s RDA.
But the city is also looking for local funding, as those affordable housing programs are still not expected to replace RDA.
The $50 social services tax could generate $1.5 million and go to affordable housing and also homeless programs.
Mayor Davis explained this week that, while it will not fill the gap for the loss of RDA, “it provides critical resources for affordable housing and services for homeless and vulnerable individuals.”
How much would go to homeless services and how much to affordable housing is unclear.
He explained that “the revenue can support our housing trust fund to help maintain existing affordable housing stock in the city. The trust fund can also be leveraged to build new affordable units if and when land dedication sites come forward.”
Between the local sources and state funding from SB 2 and SB 3, if approved, the city could have a lot of the funding it lost under RDA.
But, even with funding, the challenges remain in finding the land and the developers to build the affordable housing we need. Right now the city is relying on relatively small infill sites to build rental housing, in an attempt to provide for student housing and improve the vacancy rate.
Those who believe that we need more of a range of housing types need to understand that, at market rate prices, rental housing in Davis is largely out of the range of a family. Affordable housing works. I live in a small group of townhouses that are affordable and each one is occupied by families with children. The problem is that we don’t have nearly enough of them – and, while we can solve the funding problem, solving the supply problem remains a challenge.
—David M. Greenwald reporting