This is the third of the Vanguard’s series of 11 questions. Every Monday until the week before election, we’ll have a new question and answers. Answers are limited to 250 words.
Question 3: When the state did away with RDA the city lost $2 million in annual funding for affordable housing. The result is that the city no longer has affordable housing funds outside of in-lieu fees. As a council member would you support finding additional ways to produce subsidized affordable housing and, if so, name three strategies by which the city can increase its pool of affordable housing.
A failure to build housing despite growing demand has created an affordable housing crisis in Davis and across California. Even in the best of circumstances, addressing this problem causes tensions with other things we value, such as preserving open space, agricultural land and our small-town feel. But we can address the problem consistent with our Davis values.
- We should tap into the citizen expertise we have in town to submit highly competitive grant applications for part of a $4 billion statewide housing bond on the November ballot that is likely to win voter approval. It’s our money; we should get back our share and more. Recent state legislation (SB 2, Atkins) will also provide us additional affordable housing resources.
- We should allow private development of additional housing for seniors, workers, and students for projects that constitute sound land-use policy, fix any environmental problems they would cause, and are fiscally positive for the city. Market-rate projects could subsidize additional affordable housing we need in downtown Davis, other infill locations, and on surplus city-owned property. We can also undertake innovative rezoning, second-story units, “granny-flats,” and relaxed parking requirements like Portland to encourage affordable units in smaller-scale developments.
- We must work collaboratively with UC Davis to solve our affordable housing problem by providing additional student housing on campus and helping us to house the additional faculty needed to teach those students. For example, UC Davis could replace lost redevelopment monies as mitigation for their new campus growth plans.
Finding additional ways to produce subsidized affordable housing and increase the pool of affordable housing in Davis is one of the most recalcitrant problems faced not only in Davis but by all of the state of California. While challenging, we must begin to consider solutions.
- In lieu fees have been paid by developers for projects to forgo building affordable units. We can use these fees to help people with down payments on older homes in Davis that are more affordable than newer homes and partner with realtors to set up programs to help new home buyers find additional assistance. We should also consider finding a way to increase this revenue stream.
- Dos Pinos limited equity cooperative has keep the price of housing affordable by spreading ownership among all that live there. Residents have many of the benefits of ownership at an attainable price. We should find more ways to build limited equity cooperatives.
- Modify measure R/J: Growth boundaries are important. When this measure was enacted there was urgent need for it. There is an equally urgent need to revisit this measure now. I think an alternative way to administer growth boundaries is to give clear narrow standards around what development on land outside the city limits must meet with regard to density, sustainability, location and affordability. Any project that does not meet this rubric must go to the voters. In addition the renewal of the measure must include a prescribed grow formula that encourages infill. When measure R/J comes up for a vote in 2020 the composition of Davis will be much different than it was when it was first voted in. Rising frustration from students and longtime residents may vote it out all together. It is wise to anticipate the changing attitudes in our city.
I support subsidized affordable rental housing and believe affordable units should be incorporated in all new residential developments. I do not support in lieu fees.
The greatest impediment to affordability in Davis is our lack of inventory. Step one is to create incentives to increase both market rate, and affordable units, by reducing the upfront costs of new development. We need to re-examine and prioritize the taxes, fees, mandates and exactions demanded by the City. One logical result would be to prioritize affordable units over other mandates, such as parking minimums, thus offsetting the greater costs of the affordable units.
The second approach is to remove restrictive zoning requirements that limit construction of high-density multi-family housing. We need to expand our housing inventory throughout the City, including mixed use redevelopment downtown and at neighborhood centers, and high-density infill elsewhere. The State is already moving in that direction, overriding local regulations, and we would be well served to get ahead of that process.
The final step is for the City Council to stop “negotiating from the dais” in order to extract that one last exaction. Our planning process should be transparent and predictable, with all the known costs determined up front. The Council’s role is to determine the priorities for our mandates and exactions in advance, and not to delay a decision in order to strong arm additional concessions. Predictability saves everyone time and money, reducing the overall cost of new housing and increasing our opportunity to address our housing challenges.
In California, the resurgence of redevelopment agencies can come to fruition with the next elected Governor. Legislators have introduced a bill (AB 3037) to establish redevelopment housing and infrastructure agencies to fund affordable housing and infrastructure projects in the state. With the housing crisis, Davis will be benefiting if the next elected Governor supports the proposed bill. With the state’s finances getting better overall, legislators are ready to take the opportunity in addressing the housing crisis within responsible spending, safeguards and monitoring of potential funds. In Davis, we need housing for moderate-income families, public support from the community, from students, seniors and residents. If the newly elected Governor approves, redevelopment funds need to be properly spent on affordable housing and not on employee salaries, developer subsidies or other planning and administration efforts. In truly serving the community, redevelopment opportunities must immediately address the housing crisis and infrastructure needs. The definition of affordable housing means different things to different people, interest groups and stakeholders. “Affordability” needs to be a smart growth policy concern as Davis plans future home building. We can no longer support the idea that affordable housing is out of reach in the City.
For the immediate future, the City can help maintain older housing by supporting existing low-income household repairs to reduce utility bills; promote stronger affordable housing mandates and inclusionary zoning to meet the needs of middle-income households; and support policies that focus on the development of townhouses, apartment homes and secondary suites.
Yes. I support our community’s long-standing commitment to affordable housing. Since the late 1980s, Davis has had inclusionary requirements in its General Plan policies, and in 1990 adopted an ordinance requiring affordable housing (both rental and ownership) for households from extremely low (30 % Area Medium Income (AMI)) to moderate (120 % AMI) income levels. Here are my three strategies:
1) Increase impact fees to fund subsidized affordable housing. We currently collect $75,000 per unit built. I would support moving away from the “by unit” model currently in place and instead calculate such fees by bedroom. The money from these impact fees could then be used like vouchers or rental assistance for use in the private market. This subsidy could stay with the tenant. Alternatively, it could be used for multifamily subsidized housing where the subsidy is given to the owner providing affordable housing with the subsidy staying with the property.
2) Because the cost of land is the greatest obstacle in building affordable housing, let’s look at building subsidized housing on publically owned land and/or through land dedication. Through land dedication affordable housing developers can leverage the value of the property to fund the total project.
3) To have a vibrant and financially sustainable community we need to build housing for our working families, down-sizing seniors, and others on fixed incomes. Since available land is so limited, let’s zone for more multi-family housing and incentivize building smaller homes, and therefore more affordable, new homes.
Mary Jo Bryan
First: I would formalize discussion of affordable housing in both the Downtown Plan and Housing Element updates to the General Plan. I would inform both those General Plan processes through formation of a citizen subcommittee that includes subsidized renters who would examine options, set priorities and make formal recommendations for inclusion in the General Plan Update.
Second: As an alternative to simply building new multi-unit housing, which frequently isolates persons and families from inclusion into community neighborhoods, I would recommend the following strategies:
- In lieu funds be used to retrofit and rehab older homes and/or apartment complexes. This could be a community action project where builders are asked to donate time and materials and prospective tenants are expected to contribute sweat equity, cleaning up the yards, landscaping, or other jobs similar to Habitat for Humanity.
- In lieu funds be invested and used to provide partial rent subsidies similar to a Federal Section 8 program. Apartment owners would be encouraged to enroll in the program since rents are guaranteed, and the city would assist with repairs and upgrades to the site. Prospective renters would be encouraged to provide sweat equity as an offset to rent payments, i.e. cleaning, painting and minor repairs
- Once a city-wide commitment to subsidized affordable housing is affirmed through the implementation of these first two steps, the City could use a limited parcel tax as an means of securing additional funds for specialized subsidized housing for at-risk populations such as seniors, the disabled, and/or foster youth housing.