While the council has spent much of the year focused on putting out brush fires, the city’s released poll and several other private polls show that the biggest concern – by far – among voters is the affordability of housing and housing supply. How that will manifest itself in the coming months where the voters will face a number of choices at the ballot box is anyone’s guess.
Yesterday, the Sacramento Bee featured a story capturing one aspect of the Davis housing crisis – the notion is one that we have heard anecdotally for a number of years – Davis residents are moving up Road 102 to what some have called “North North Davis” and what the Bee article calls “Wavis.” (Link – warning, it is a subscriber-only article).
The article tells the story of Dave Heard, who raised his family in Davis, he describes his “heart and soul” is in Davis, but as his kids grew up, the upkeep on the house no longer worth it, and the search for homes in Davis found slim pickings – he and his wife moved up County Road 102 to Woodland “where hundreds of brand new homes were opening in the city’s southeast corner.”
Reports the Bee: “Woodland houses sell at roughly half the price of those in Davis. And the Spring Lake housing development off Road 102 was just a six-minute drive to Davis. It made Woodland an attractive new home.”
The Bee reports: “Davis real estate agents who once never sold properties in the blue-collar town now see a steady stream of sales every year. Builders are securing more than 100 building permits for new homes every year, eager to develop the cheap land buttressing a thriving metro area. Woodland officials hope with the city’s farming reputation — and the proximity of a major research institution in UC Davis — the city will bolster its economy by becoming a leader in agriculture and food technology innovation.”
Of course, there will be repercussions in Woodland. They note that the small-town feel of Woodland could be lost and the families fleeing “fleeing high-priced Davis” could end up driving “up the cost of real estate to a point where long-time Woodland residents will be forced out.”
They quote Woodland real estate agent Don Sharp saying, “It kind of moves one population out as the price goes up.”
They also quote Kim Eichorn, another real estate agent who said “most people looking to move from Davis to Woodland used to be empty nesters.” But that is changing too. She said that she “is more often helping young parents find new, relatively affordable homes in Woodland to raise their children while taking advantage of a school district policy that lets them keep their kids in high-performing Davis schools.”
The Bee reports: “The median home price in Woodland hovers around $420,000, roughly double what it was in 2012, according to data compiled by real estate agents and listing services. In Davis, the median listing price is closer to $675,000.”
“When you look at the commute distance to Davis and it’s only 10 to 15 minutes to most location,” Mr. Sharp said, “that’s very attractive to people who can afford a $550,000 new home in Woodland and that same home would cost $750,000 in Davis.”
There are a few other pretty interesting discussions. One is that Woodland is now considering a “new zoning approach” in order to encourage denser housing with built-in retail and commercial space. They have made some progress with this, but Woodland Councilmember Enrique Fernandez told the Bee “more needs to be done to entice developers to build high-density housing.”
But there remains the debate as to whether that is what potential Woodland home buyers are looking for.
They quote Davis real estate agent Cory Gold.
“Davis is talking about the same thing – a goal of 1,000 beds in the core area in the next general plan – and I can’t see that many people willing to give up their cars and start walking everywhere,” Mr. Gold said. “I think some people will, but the majority of people with families still want a yard, still want a garage for two cars.”
This provides us with some good data and some food for thought.
First of all, the issue of affordability of housing is a huge issue for Davis. This is just another example that the cost of housing is forcing people out of town.
Second, the rallying cry for communities is preserving the character of the town – but the preservation of the character of the town leads to policies that end up changing the character of the town in other ways.
There is a lot of growing evidence that as the cost of housing rises – there will be fewer families with children and more and more Davis will become both a more exclusive community, with only those able to afford to live in Davis, staying here. And it will become a more bifurcated town with more older residents and more college students, but fewer in the middle ground in the 30 to 50 range – the range with families and children.
We have discussed the district’s policy of allowing for out of district transfers – so people can move away from Davis but keep their kids in Davis school. That has been a subject of much discussion and it would be interesting to explore whether that ends up being a good or thing for this community.
And there will be impacts on Woodland – people there will start to be priced out, will Woodland start to impose more growth control? How will Woodland respond to these changes.
Finally the question is where Davis goes from here. Voters have shown more of a willingness to approve Measure R housing projects. How that impact things into the future?
We have a lot of questions and the city is nearly ready to embark on the General Plan process.
—David M. Greenwald reporting