Sunday Commentary: Affordable Housing as Social Justice

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A Sacramento-based affordable housing site we toured

We like to think of ourselves in Davis as progressives.  When I first started writing the Vanguard, 12 years ago last Monday, I viewed Davis as a disconnect – politically liberal, willing to support liberal policies and politicians nationally, but below that surface, I talked about what I called “the dark underbelly.”

Upper middle class citizens willing to bury their heads in the sand or turn a blind eye to the injustices below the surface in their own community.   At the time, I was thinking of issues of race, crime, and policing – but I could have been writing about housing, which I would argue is tied neatly to all of those issues.

Interestingly enough, I see a community that has greatly transformed on many of these issues since those dark days of 2006.  The 2017 Picnic Day incident paved the way for a new generation of activists and new reforms to the police department that resulted, interestingly enough, in a system very similar to one that was outright rejected by the council and many in the community in 2006.

This city overwhelmingly voted for the first African American president and California’s first woman of color as senator, and now we have elected a Latina woman who will become the first Latina Mayor of Davis in two years.

Where we have not made as much progress is on the issue of housing.  A few years ago a friend of mine challenged me by stating that I am willing to speak out for social justice on a number of important fronts, but what about housing?

The left in Davis, for the most part, has viewed their legacy as one of environmental stewardship.  They view of tantamount importance the value of the preservation of open space and agricultural land in the areas surrounding Davis.

When I began what would become my life’s work in 2006, we had been coming off a period of rapid growth in population and housing.  Covell Village had just, in reaction, been resoundingly defeated in the first ever Measure J vote and we were about to enter the worst recession and housing market collapse post-World War II.

But the pendulum has swung too far – and not just in Davis.  Across the state, housing has emerged as one of the biggest and most pressing needs.  Attending an affordable housing tour of Sacramento, I see that we think of housing issues as being results of developers and capitalism, but we need to really think of housing issues as social justice problems.

The people who get hurt when we have housing shortfalls are the poor and vulnerable.

My views on student housing in Davis started to change when I began meeting with students and student groups and realized the extent of the problem that students face in this community.  As the university has grown, and the lack of housing both on and off campus has not kept up, the pressures on students have increased.

We had no way to measure how impacted students were – and how vulnerable they are to housing shortages is frankly shocking, or should be.  But I believe this is not just a student housing problem, it is problem of a community that has failed to understand the impacts their policies on growth will have on future generations, starting with college students and continuing to working families and others.

This morning, in his column in the local paper, Jonathan London writes: “Housing poverty is measured by paying more than 30 percent of household income on housing.

“Think about it: less than 70 percent of your monthly income would be available for food, utilities, transportation, education, social and health services, and other essentials. How would you survive? In some neighborhoods in Davis, there are as many as 60 percent of households that are living in such conditions,” he writes.

He then puts it into terms of a family of four with an income of $31,000 per year.  That family would “have to pay nearly two-thirds of its monthly salary to rent a two bedroom apartment. This is partly due to the astoundingly low vacancy rate of less than 1 percent (compared to the California average of 3.3 percent) that lead to sky rocketing rents (more than $1,800 for a two-bedroom apartment.)”

This is part of why I have argued that market rate multifamily housing is not a solution for housing for families in Davis.

Mr. London points out that, in the face of the housing crisis, “there is some agreement on the problem, but heated debate over the solutions.”

I agree with him – there is some agreement on the problem, but heated debate over the solutions.  He concludes: “Consider this: We just passed several measures to fund our schools, parks and roads — all social goods essential to a healthy and vibrant community. Why should we view affordable housing as any less of a public benefit? When housing is affordable for all, we all thrive.”

The problem that I see is how to get there.  I think we have to begin this discussion by clearly identifying the problem.  The problem itself is multilayered and complicated.  In short, we do not have enough housing and the housing that we do have is too expensive – partly because we do not have enough of it, but also because economic incentives drive us to build bigger homes on available parcels.

We need to look at market-based affordability as one part of the solution, but that is not going to get us all the way there.

The second part of the problem is that we lack the funding mechanisms to build new affordable housing.  This was driven home time and time again even in Sacramento.  The loss of redevelopment monies has been devastating.  Mr. London laments the fact that the “city councils have not been as strong as they should have been in holding the developers to account” but also doesn’t explore the realities of financing subsidized affordable housing.

My belief is that, in order to solve this problem, we have to understand it – and we need a community conversation in order for more citizens to understand the nature of the problem before we figure out the best way to solve it.

In the coming weeks, I hope to lay out a plan by which to do that.

—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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45 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Affordable Housing as Social Justice”

  1. Keith O

    In the coming weeks, I hope to lay out a plan by which to do that.

    Yet another parcel tax?  That always seems to be the go to solution for you progressives.

    PS:  For someone who often bashes the Enterprise you sure seem to cite and many times use its content for your articles.

    1. Jim Hoch

      Parcel taxes are particularly popular among people in welfare housing who do not pay them.

      Also note that the writer quoted does not seem to realize that the road tax was defeated. For a local political columnist he seems clueless.

      1. Alan Miller

        For a local political columnist he seems clueless.

        Also clueless about Trackside, siting it as ‘smart growth’ and immediately calling for strengthening laws to allow for more affordable housing in the next sentence.  Apparently clueless that Trackside does not have an affordable housing component and is to be high-priced luxury apartments.

        Gong!

  2. Ken A

    Few will ever tell someone like David but almost everyone in Davis lives here because they don’t want to live around poor people (not including poor top 1% students).

    Anyone that did not want to live in a city surrounded by well educated liberals could save thousands by moving to Woodland or West Sac.

  3. Ken A

    Why talk about a “family of four with an income of $31,000 per year” (a family with just one person working making $15/hr) and “renting $1,800 two-bedroom apartment” (a place that is more expensive than close to 90% of the apartments in the region and DOUBLE the price of some decent two-bedroom units in Woodland) why not have a family of six making ~$22K (the current minimum wage) and renting a $5K home on College Park Circle across from UCD (the most expensive home on Craig’s List).

    https://sacramento.craigslist.org/apa/d/beautiful-tudor-revival-5/6657728203.html

    I would love to live in a multi million dollar Bay Area home or even a million dollar home on College Park Circle but I moved to a home we could afford.  I would also like to drink Napa wine every night but I just drink it on special occasions since I can’t afford to drink a $45 Chardonnay or a $65 cab on a typical weeknight.  This might sound strange to people that love raising taxes (to build “affordable” housing giving millions to the politically connected landowners, developers and contractors that make crazy money on each “affordable” project), but most people will be a lot happier living in a state where they can BUY a nice home with a big yard for less than RENTING a crappy “affordable” apartment in Davis living with people who are actually trying NOT to get ahead so they won’t lose their spot in the “affordable” (aka subsidised by the people with jobs) apartment.

    1. Howard P

      Why even talk about having a family if the income is $31k/year?  At least one poster has reasonable suggestions about not conceiving…

      Stupid me… expected to pay all costs wherever I was, before we started a family…

  4. Jeff M

    The left in Davis, for the most part, has viewed their legacy as one of environmental stewardship.  They view of tantamount importance the value of the preservation of open space and agricultural land in the areas surrounding Davis.

    We need to look at market-based affordability as one part of the solution, but that is not going to get us all the way there.

    Those vested in the righteous liberal social justice cause, and other righteous causes, often ignore the law of unintended consequences.

    For example, tack on at least 25% greater housing development costs to support all that environmental stewardship.  We the people are too stupid to chose our own windows, and our own electrical and plumbing fixtures.  We cannot do the math to decide if solar power is financially feasible, so nanny government settled all of this for us and made us a long and costly list of requirements.

    And our environmental stewardship has also caused the inventory of build-able land to plummet and the cost to skyrocket.  Meanwhile all that government mandated natural space grows into a raging wildfire waiting to happen… thus hammering the state with a shortage of contractors who are busy rebuilding all the burned down buildings, and again jacking up the cost of construction… which when complete will require more expensive hazard insurance.

    And once in a while the left brains of government do something actually helpful, like implement the Re-Development Agency (RDA) program.  It worked for years to help communities do public-private partnerships to develop affordable housing.   But its success was its undoing as the big spenders in state government had to find another cookie jar to loot from in their perpetual quest to run out of other people’s money.

    David is correct that market-based affordability is only going to be part of the solution.  It should be all of the solution, but California government and the governments of local communities like Davis have regulated away the standard market-based outcomes.   The public does not have the capital to build enough housing.  This isn’t a good approach anyway because anything the government builds will be much more costly than what the private sector can do.

    The prescription for solving this problem will require:

    1. State legislation or initiatives that forbid cities and counties to implement voter-decided approval of new housing development.  These communities have elected officials and planning processes.  That is good enough.

    2. Bring back RDA to bring back public-private partnering for development projects.

    3. Implement regulatory relief that targets the cost of new housing development.

    One last point to be made.  27% of California’s 40 million residents are foreign born.  Over 6% of the population are illegal immigrants.  Of course all those people need housing.  And with the laws of supply and demand, it has driven up the cost of many things including housing.    And there is great irony there as many of these people work in California’s agriculture industry and that same industry lobbies hard to prevent development on open land… which in-turn has a consequence of making housing more costly and affordable farm labor less plentiful.   Recently in Napa I talked to a Mexican immigrant who, along with six others, drove a van from Stockton up and down Highway 12 every day, six days a week, to work in the Napa vineyards where they would make $12 per hour.  More irony of unintended consequences in that situation as California liberals demanding we preserve open space and not build housing in the name of global warming have caused more people to chose to live where it is cheaper and commute long distances to earn a paycheck… thus spewing more carbon emissions.

    The lesson here is that we humans are much less capable than we think we are setting rules to try and control outcomes in pursuit of utopian perfection than are the natural laws of free market capitalism… something that can look like chaos on the surface, but that generally does better returning optimum outcomes that better serve the overall human condition.

    Use Houston as an example.   Many Davisites would turn up their noses at that city as being aesthetically unsatisfactory.  However, it has developed as one of the most progressive culinary areas in the world at least in part due to all the available commercial space.   And even though it is a much larger city (2.4MM vs 500M), Houston’s housing and rental costs are about the same as Sacramento.   Houston lacks traditional zoning laws.  It also does not have nearly the amount of environmental rules and restrictions that plague development in California cities.

    And Texas (especially Houston) has a large immigrant and illegal immigrant population like California.

    Texas does better with housing costs largely because Texans are more apt to support principles of free-markets.  California can learn much from Texas with respect to housing affordability.  But somehow I doubt we will.

    1. Alan Miller

      You tout private industry, but espouse RDA.  How is RDA not corporate welfare?  And isn’t it government support for the industry you are in?  So you ox is being fed, on the gov’t dole, no?

      1. Jeff M

        Here is my perspective belief in response to your very appropriate question.

        Free market capitalism’s invisible hand works at its own pace and includes the ebb-and-flow practice of creative destruction and construction.  The pursuit of profit, lower risk and greater returns on capital investment drive the decision process.  I think assisting the overall decision process in the name of public policy outcomes is desirable in some cases.

        Think of it this way… we can give money to children after their crappy K-12 experience to help them survive, or we can invest in better K-12 education services so that the kids graduate better prepared to succeed.   You can view this as public assistance into making the machine return a better product vs public assistance to the constituents of a broken machine.  It is top-down investment.

        RDA was really a self-sustaining program.  It really did not cost the public anything from the perspective of it helping to develop incremental tax revenue that would otherwise not exist.  It basically helped bridge the risk and return gap for certain types of development serving a public policy goal so that capital would flow there instead of to places with less risk and greater returns.

        RDA as designed was based on an abundance and growth mindset.  I support those types of programs generally, instead of those based on a scarcity mindset (as in taxing the unwanted behavior to force it to be directed to one benefiting a public policy goal).

        The SBA programs that my business administers are all non-subsidy.  They pay for themselves.  The programs bridge the gap between the types of projects that banks will cover, and those that are just not worthy of getting financing.   Banks are not responsible for public policy (although they are forced to direct capital to some public policy goals through CRA and other banking regulations), so I support some well-designed top-down programs of government to get capital to small business projects that otherwise would not get capital… again to serve some reasonable public policy goals… with the overall goal of improving the general human condition in a sustainable and long-term fashion.

        But I don’t support bottom-up programs to give money to people not working that are capable to work.  I also don’t support programs and policies that attempt to achieve public policy goals from a scarcity mindset except when the issue is clearly public safety.

        1. Don Shor

          RDA was really a self-sustaining program. It really did not cost the public anything from the perspective of it helping to develop incremental tax revenue that would otherwise not exist. It basically helped bridge the risk and return gap for certain types of development serving a public policy goal so that capital would flow there instead of to places with less risk and greater returns.

          Solve these issues and prevent the abuses, and RDA’s can come back.
          https://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2014/7/regulation-v37n2-5.pdf
          In our present political environment, I personally doubt that RDA replacements could be created without similar problems as before.

        2. Jeff M

          Perfection is the enemy of the good.

          I think the bigger problem is to prevent those wanting to loot RDA again from exploiting the few abuses to make a disingenuous case that it is a bad program and should be raided.

          1. Don Shor

            the few abuses to make a disingenuous case that it is a bad program

            Yeah, right.

            SACRAMENTO – State Controller John Chiang today released the results of a five-week, limited-scope review of 18 redevelopment agencies (RDAs) across the State of California. The Controller found no reliable means to measure the impact of redevelopment activity on job growth because RDAs either do not track them or their methodologies lack uniformity and are often arbitrary. The review exposes the difficulty of holding RDAs accountable for their funding decisions when existing legal standards are so loose that any area can be deemed “blighted.”

            The report also identified several missed payments to school districts and widespread accounting and reporting deficiencies, questionable payroll practices, substandard audits, faulty loans, and inappropriate use of affordable housing funds.

            “For a government activity which consumes more than $5.5 billion of public resources annually, we should be troubled that there are no objective performance measures demonstrating that taxpayers are receiving optimal return for each invested dollar,” said Controller Chiang. “Locally-controlled economic development is vital to California’s long-term prosperity. However, the existing approach – born in the 1940’s – is not how anyone concerned with performance, efficiency, and accountability would draw it up today.”

            The 18 selected agencies represent 16 percent of all redevelopment dollars in fiscal year 2009-10. Auditors from the Controller’s office conducted the review by interviewing redevelopment staff and analyzing financial statements, reports, plans, budget documents, ledgers, job creation data, and payroll records.

            The report notes that the 18 RDAs share no consensus in defining a blighted area. While run-down sections of Los Angeles with abandoned buildings show obvious need for redevelopment, other cities were far broader in their declaration of blight. Coronado’s redevelopment area covers every privately-owned parcel in the city, including multi-million dollar beachfront homes. In Palm Desert, redevelopment dollars are being used to renovate greens and bunkers at a 4.5 star golf resort. That RDA receives the 10th-highest tax revenue in the State, with a fund balance worth $4,666 for each of the city’s 52,000 residents.

            Only 10 of the 18 RDAs attempted to track the number of jobs created by their projects. Of those ten agencies, four could provide no methodology or explanation for their figures. The remaining six all used different methods to find the number of jobs created. The County of Riverside used projections from developers, while the City of Desert Hot Springs looked at permit and employment records.

            Employee compensation levels for RDAs were largely consistent with the salary and benefits offered to other local government employees. But the report found that redevelopment dollars often went to city or county payroll without evidence that those dollars actually supported redevelopment services. In the City of Pittsburg, the redevelopment agency signed a service agreement with the city and transferred $3 million to the city’s general fund. But no documentation exists to show that the $3 million actually went to redevelopment services.

            Five of the 18 RDAs failed to make $33.6 million in required payments to schools within their redevelopment areas. When RDAs fail to make these payments, it increases the State General Fund’s financial obligations to local school districts. While RDAs are able to borrow funds in order to make these school payments, none of the five agencies attempted to do so.

            While all the RDAs made the required deposits into their Low & Moderate Housing funds, the review found that many of them made inappropriate charges to this account that were not directly related to affordable housing, as required by the State’s Health and Safety Code.

            The City of Los Angeles inappropriately charged 20 percent of its redevelopment administration costs to the fund (amounting to $833,000).
            The City of Calexico also charged a percentage of its administrative costs, but also charged the fund for code enforcement and the cost of performing audits of the RDA.
            The City of Desert Hot Springs inappropriately charged $162,000 for “code enforcement.”
            The City of Parlier inappropriately charged the cost of purchasing a daycare center.
            The City of Hercules inappropriately charged $9,600 of its lobbyist expenses.
            None of the 18 reviewed agencies met all of their filing requirements. In some cases, annual financial reports were fed to the RDA governing bodies in pieces, while others simply did not file. Auditors from the Controller’s office found that many of the RDAs’ department staff were confused by filing requirements, and the report recommends strong training improvements for financial staff. The report also found that independent audits often failed to identify major audit violations and did not include all required information.

            “The lack of accountability and transparency is a breeding ground for waste, abuse, and impropriety,” said Controller Chiang. “In whatever form local redevelopment takes in the future, the level of oversight and openness must be consistent with the amount of public dollars entrusted to their care.”

            Two of the RDAs made questionable loans to their cities’ general fund. In Pittsburg, the agency loaned $16.6 million in fiscal year 2009-10 without interest to the city for specified projects. By the end of the fiscal year, $15.4 million was unspent, allowing the city to earn interest on those funds. The City of Calexico’s RDA loaned $1.75 million to the city in 1993 with six percent interest. The City Council, acting as the RDA board, lowered the interest rate to 1.42 percent in 2004. While the loan was supposed to be fully repaid by 2009, the city still owes $1.1 million to the redevelopment fund, based on information provided to the State Controller’s office.

        3. Jeff M

          SACRAMENTO – State Controller John Chiang today released the results of a five-week, limited-scope review of 18 redevelopment agencies (RDAs) across the State of California.

          Again, it was cherry-picking the worst cases to serve a political agenda to loot the tax base that RDAs developed.  There were over 400 RDAs.

        4. Jeff M

          So you have vacant piece of land or a non-functioning built piece of land that is returning very low to zero property tax revenue.  RDA works to complete an affordable housing development on that property and the assessment value jumps and RDA takes some of the property tax increment increase to fund the RDA program and shares the rest with other agencies including education.

          And the CA teacher union was able to claim that they had rights to a large portion of that tax increment increase… even though without the development resulting from the RDA program, there would have been none.  This “backfill” requirement was the big broken piece of the program.  But it was made into law by the CA teachers union and their Democrat politician benefactors.  So the state found itself in the position of being gamed by local municipal governments to cause the state to have to provide the backfill to the local school districts.

          Then in 2009 as the state was starting to realize that it could not afford the cost of all those expensive unionized state employees, those politicians joined forced with their public sector union pals to kill RDA so they could raid the coffers to take ALL of the tax increment increase.  In effect the state and the public sector unions gamed their side of the system to sick it to the municipal governments… even though the entire source of the state’s requirement to backfill “missing” tax increment increases was caused by legislation that Democrat state politicians colluded with the CA teachers union to create and get passed.

          The solution was easy.  The state should not be required to backfill anything.  And the only thing the schools should be entitled to is tax increment increase equal to an inflation index over the pre-RDA frozen base of the property tax.  However, if RDA was required to use a formula that provided other agencies that would lose out on these new tax revenues (that, again, would not exist if not for RDAs helping to fund the projects) at some level greater than inflation of the pre-RDA frozen base tax, then the stakeholders should have been made happy.

          Oh wait… that is exactly what the 1993 RDA reformed did.

          But those greedy state Dems and their CA teachers union pals wanted more.  They wanted it all as a single injection of new tax revenue would help the state keep all those public union members getting their fat pay and benefits.  2009 provided the cover excuse… the Great Recession.

          So they killed RDA and raided the RDA cookie jar.

          And now cities have nothing to help build affordable housing and to help redevelop commercial areas to help increase sales tax revenue.

          Let’s hope those CA teachers union bosses are happy.

          1. Don Shor

            At least 120 municipalities spent a combined $700 million in housing funds from 2000 to 2008 without constructing a single new unit. Nor did most of them add to the housing stock by rehabilitating existing units.
            Cities across California have skirted or ignored laws requiring them to build affordable homes and in the process mismanaged hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars
            $87 million from 2000 to 2008 produced only 42 homes and 62 rehabilitated units.
            Officials spent millions on projects that knocked down homes, displaced low-income people and worsened blight without producing anything in its place
            $42.5 million to a politically connected developer to keep about 550 units below market rate for 99 years — even though a consultant to the city said the price was “unwarranted” and city officials were told that an appropriate price for slightly fewer units would be about $13 million.
            spending most of their affordable housing money over the decade on “planning and administration” — but never built a single unit.

            https://mres.com/2017/10/history-shows-california-taxes-for-affordable-housing-wont-be-spent-properly/
            Figure out how to do it right, fine. Blaming the governor and the teachers union is pointless political invective. The system was hopelessly inefficient and corrupt. I believe various measures have been introduced to replace the RDA’s with successor agencies that will work better. We’ll see.

        5. Jeff M

          Took me a bit to find this again. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/publications/redevelopment_whitepaper.pdf

          It is the most comprehensive and balanced explanation and wrap-up of the RDA program in California.  As is the case with many people on the left of politics, they defend their politicians by pointing out the bad behavior of other politicians, and ignore all the great good done by the program.

          This bit stood out for me…

          In response to the Governor’s proposal to dissolve RDAs in
          the state, the Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) evaluated
          the performance of RDAs and found no evidence that RDAs
          improved overall economic development in California and that
          the program shifted funds away from necessary services, such
          as education.

          The California LAO is part of the Democrat CA teachers union cartel.  They adopted this political talking point while failing to calculate the benefits for all the things RDA accomplished that would have otherwise not been accomplished.

          The list of good done FAR exceeds the problems.  And the problems could have been fixed with remedies… but then that would have meant that the CA teachers union would not get their raiding party.   Note that all that money is gone… spent… used to fill a budget hole that should not have existed in the first place except for all the overpaid state government workers and government retirees.  They raided the program and shut it down so they could empty those bank accounts.  Now the money is spent and there is nothing left for cities to use to partner with private developers to do great things for their community.

          The state Democrats have egg all over their face on this one.  With respect to the problem of affordable housing in the state, the #1 root cause is the Democrat domination of state politics.

      2. Ron

        I concur with Alan, regarding RDA as a form of corporate welfare.

        Jeff:  “Use Houston as an example.”

        O.K. – here you go.  One of many articles regarding the costs to taxpayers, for Houston’s floods:

        “The National Flood Insurance Program was supposed to discourage development in flood-prone areas, but new development has spread across flood plains, including thousands of homes in the Houston area that flooded during Hurricane Harvey.”

        “It was supposed to be self-supporting, but premiums don’t come close to covering the expenses, requiring repeated bailouts by taxpayers.”

        “Attempts to fix flood insurance have been derailed repeatedly by special interests, political expediency and powerful lobbies that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into congressional campaigns, a three-month examination by the Houston Chronicle reveals. Banks, builders, insurers and real estate agents — supported by property owners and allies in Congress —have combined to thwart even the most practical changes.”

        https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Build-flood-rebuild-flood-insurance-s-12413056.php

         

         

         

        1. Jeff M

          Well in over-regulated and over-restricted CA we have many tens of thousands of homes burning down because of wild-fires.  So I fail to get your point.   Zoning does not stop category 4 and 5 hurricanes.  Apparently it does not stop wild fires either.

        2. Ron

          Jeff:  Yes, that’s another (similar) situation.  For example, they’re rebuilding the burned area in Santa Rosa right now.  The same area that burned 50 years ago, and will likely burn again.

          And, I understand that Santa Rosa is waiving/streamlining some of the usual requirements (e.g., the type of requirements that you sometimes complain about), to make that happen.

          I suspect that a similar effort will occur in Redding, after the ashes cool off.

          We’ll all end up paying for it, one way or another.  And, some may pay for it with their lives (again), in the future.

          1. Don Shor

            For example, they’re rebuilding the burned area in Santa Rosa right now. The same area that burned 50 years ago, and will likely burn again.

            What do you expect them to do? Relocate everyone? Where did you have in mind for them to go?

        3. Ron

          Don:  There are no “shortages” of places in the world.  Some are safer than others.

          In general, I don’t support policies which force everyone else to subsidize the costs of those living in particularly dangerous locations.  And, end up putting lives at risk – including those of rescuers/responders.

          If those living in such locations had to pay the full cost of their choice, we’d likely see different (safer) development patterns.

          We’ve already seen the alternative (twice within 50 years or so, in the example I’m referring to). And, it seems that climate change may increase such risks.

          1. Don Shor

            You’re absolutely right. Yolo County is one of the safest place to live with respect to both flooding and wildfire. So they can move here? That’s ok with you?
            Do you really believe the people burned out of their homes in Santa Rosa should not rebuild? Seriously?

        4. Ron

          Of course, in the interim period (since the last fire, 50 years ago), there’s been a lot more construction in that location, as well as other high-risk areas.

          It’s almost as if crazy people (or corrupt) are in charge of these types of planning decisions. Actually, the article I referenced regarding Houston (above) touches upon that.

        5. Ron

          Don:  You might be right, regarding Yolo county in general.  Of course, one might wonder if it’s a good idea to eliminate even more farmland, increase demands upon water and infrastructure, and further degrade the natural environment.  Some of those factors might be classified as “quality of life”.

          Or, we could just accept that there are practical limits regarding how many people our region, state, country, and the world can reasonably support. And ultimately, that includes issues such as global warming, extinction of species, political stability and security, etc.

          In any case, I don’t support subsidies for those choosing to live in high-risk areas (as is our policy, now). Ideally, this should be clarified at the planning stage, not when people are already living in such areas. (Of course, disasters can provide an opportunity to re-examine such issues.)

        6. David Greenwald

          Or, you  “Ron” wI’ll have to accept that there are people going to live in places *you* don’t want them to live and as a result we will have to deal with the ramifications of that. Practically speaking there is no way around it.

        7. Ron

          David:  I stated no such thing.

          I’d suggest you re-read the article above regarding Houston, and how government-supported insurance encourages people to (repeatedly) rebuild in dangerous areas, at taxpayer expense.

          Locally, government-constructed levees also foist costs upon taxpayers at large, and vastly increase the value of privately-held lands that were not previously suitable for development.

          This is called “corruption”. And we all pay for it, willing or not.

          In any case, there’s a saying regarding the two types of levees: “those that have failed, and those that will fail”.

        8. David Greenwald

          I didn’t say you stated anything, all I was doing is replying to your comment that we have to acrept that there a practical limitations and what I’m suggesting is that you have to acrept that there are people going to live in areas that put them at risk and there are consequences for that.  Because it is certainly not practical to evacuate all of Santa Rosa, or Houston or any number of other communities that are in harms way.  I’m not saying that you said anything. I am simply making a point.

        9. Ron

          I don’t know about the flooding risks in all of Houston, but not all of Santa Rosa is a high-risk fire area.

          Perhaps ironically, the free market might show where high-risk areas are, if the government stopped subsidizing such risks.  (For example, insurance companies are pretty good at assessing risk.  That is, if they’re willing to accept such risks, and they don’t go bankrupt during a massive disaster.)

          And, if an insurance company is not willing to accept such risks for a given location, that’s probably a pretty good sign that building there is not a good idea.

        10. Ron

          Don:  I have no control over where people choose to live.

          There are lots of places that I’d like to live, but would have trouble affording. Or, I’d have to make some sacrifice to do so, that I’m not willing to do at this point.

          All of the places that I’d prefer have some form of “growth control”, many of which are more strict than Davis and the surrounding area.

  5. Ron

    Questions for David (or anyone else who knows the answer). Regarding Affordable housing units (of any type):

    How many have been built in Davis in the last 15-20 years?

    How many have been approved, but not yet built?

    What is the breakdown (e.g., type) of units that have been built or approved?

    Do owners of such units pay property and/or parcel taxes?

    1. Ken A

      The city of Davis owns the Pacifico Co-Op on Drew Circle and pays no property taxes.  For some reason the city can’t be bothered to actually rent the place to many poor people and it has just been sitting MORE than half empty for MORE than a DECADE (10+ years) in a town with 0.2% vacancy.

      P.S. A while back Mayor Robb Davis said they were going to fix the place up but noting has happened and every time I ride by on the bike trail it looks like just a few people are living there (in two of the four buildings) and most of the people look as scary as the guy that beat up Crystal Marie Apodaca at the property a year ago before she ODd on meth.

      https://localwiki.org/davis/Pacifico_Student_Cooperative_Housing

  6. Ron

    David:  “I would have to do a lot of research to get those answers for you.”

    The answers would not necessarily be “for me”.  But, if you’re going to make a case for more Affordable housing, those are the types of questions that might arise from this peanut gallery. 🙂

    In fact, there’s probably a lot more questions than those that were rattled off, above.

    I suspect that Davis already has a lot more Affordable housing than some other communities. Brings to mind how one defines “need”, since it’s likely/ultimately bottomless, if folks move into those units from other communities. (Regulations to deal with that, to follow!)

    Some of this also has to do with the fact that wages have not kept up with the increased cost of housing (throughout California).

    The question I’m most interested in is whether or not owners of Affordable units pay property and parcel taxes.  (If not, that could have profound implications for the city, if the amount/percentage of Affordable housing is increased.)

    1. Howard P

      The question I’m most interested in is whether or not owners of Affordable units pay property and parcel taxes.

      To give an answer to that, you need to further define “Affordable units”… SF, or MF?

      You also need to define “property taxes”… regular property taxes, or including CFD parcel taxes?

      What precisely are you considering “parcel taxes”?

      I am disinclined to guess what you mean… once you answer all of those questions, I (and others) pretty much know the answers… as your question was posed, the answer is simply, “it depends”…

  7. Howard P

    Oh, and Ron… you seem to have little clue about FIP, and how insurance works for areas identified as being in SFHA’s…

    And you have not hired me to explain all that to you…

    BTW, it’s all available on the internet…

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