It is unfortunate that, in a lot of ways, the Measure L campaign was a distraction from the core issues that this community faces, and yet in some ways it was not. One of the biggest challenges we face in this community is going to be how to provide affordable housing in a community that is unlikely to have any significant peripheral development in the next decade.
The WDAAC (West Davis Active Adult Community) affordable housing proposal was much debated, but there is a core issue that it raises – is this going to be the only significant affordable housing proposal we will see in this city over the next decade? The No side will argue that the project itself is bad regardless of what you think of the affordable housing proposal, and therefore we should vote no, send it back to the developers and the city and get something better.
While the No side will point to Nishi which was defeated and came back to the voters and was passed, I’m not so sure that this will follow that path. Win or lose, my belief is that this is going to be the last peripheral residential development for some time.
Whether you believe that the city has a need for the overall market rate project, the argument for the affordable project is overwhelming in my view. You are talking about 150 to 170 low income seniors. The developers estimate based on demographics from other similar projects that a huge percentage will be elderly female, 37 percent minority, 22 percent with disabilities, the average age will be 75 years and one-third of the units will be for people below $13,000 a year.
Is that reason enough to support this project? You’ll need to answer that for yourself.
For me though, the prospects for affordable housing in the city of Davis look pretty bleak. The affordable housing ordinance update is sobering, to say the least.
The biggest problem we face is that there is no way to build affordable housing without it being linked to market rate housing. Someone pointed out to me that affordable housing is exempt from the need for a Measure R vote. That sounds good until you realize that you would need someone to donate land for that housing without another project attached to it – how is that ever going to happen?
The most likely projects in the near future will be infill or mixed use projects and the prospects for affordable housing in those is somewhat bleak.
In the report just released, staff notes, “[A]partment developments have been proposed, and some have even included affordable housing components. However, with the exception of the Sterling project, the approved apartment development plans have been by-the-bed/bedroom rental, and not the by-the-unit affordable housing addressed in this report.”
Once Creekside is built beginning this fall, Sterling, which has a dedicated site for 38 family-oriented apartments developed by Mutual Housing, will be the last remaining parcel dedicated for non-profit affordable housing within the city limits.
Worse yet, a lot of the future housing projects will look like Brixmor’s redevelopment of the University Mall – they will be dense, dynamic, exciting, but they will also be vertical mixed use and therefore not likely to have affordable housing.
The report put out by Plescia and backed by BAE Urban Economics finds that “under current economic conditions – the Downtown Core Mixed-Use and Large Urban Mixed-Use are unlikely to be feasible, even without inclusion of any affordable housing requirements. Construction of the Large Traditional prototype may have the potential to be feasible, however, may not have sufficient net project value to support land acquisition costs in Davis.”
Without the ability to offer land dedication, the prospects for large affordable housing projects is very limited.
While there are some possibilities still for on-site affordable housing, the advantages of land dedication are immense. It allows the developer to have “access to local, state, and federal subsidies that are available only for 100% affordable projects.” Further it allows “for the inclusion of extremely-low-income units and/or projects that serve vulnerable populations such as seniors, individuals who are experiencing chronic homelessness, and individuals who have a mental health disorder,” and “[i]ntegration of social services can be facilitated with non-profit owned, 100% affordable housing.”
At the same time, the need for affordable housing is great. The prospects for median income families to purchase their own homes are small. The affordability of even two- or three-bedroom apartments for families is limited as the prices range from $1600 to $2400 a month for market rate two- to three-bedroom apartments.
The report found rather sobering results looking at the plight of low to very and extremely low income families in Davis.
HUD (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) estimates that around 8956 households are in the low to extremely low income range in Davis and “[a]pproximately 80% of these households are paying more than 30% of their income for housing.”
Furthermore, “Of the extremely-low-income renter households, fewer than 7% are paying less than 30% of their income for housing, and an additional 4% are paying between 30% and 50% of their income for rent. The remaining 88% are either paying more than 50% of their income for housing, or have no income.”
As a result of overpaying, they have less than 70 percent of their income available for other goods and services, which includes food and transportation.
In our view, whether Measure L wins or losses, it is likely to be the last peripheral project for some time. There are a variety of factors involved in that. One is the amount of risk and difficulty of getting projects passed and the uncertain expenditure of large sums of money and time.
Without peripheral housing, unless the funding dramatically changes in the next governor’s administration, there simply will not be the possibility for anything other than a few scattered affordable housing projects in town.
In our view the biggest need is for housing for those folks making between 80 and 120 percent of annual median income. Those are the families that are likely to have children that would populate our schools, but cannot afford, for the most part, to buy homes in Davis – and apartments are out of their range because they can purchase homes elsewhere for what they pay for rent in Davis.
Voters today will have to make a decision on Measure L and whether we need senior housing and 150 units of senior affordable, but the bigger question still remains – where do we go in the future for affordable housing? That’s a tough question for which we have no answer thus far.
—David M. Greenwald reporting