My View: A Big Focus Figures to Be on Affordable Housing

Photo by Liz Sanchez-Vegas on Unsplash

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – If there is a consensus at least on a problem in Davis, affordable housing seems to be there.  A survey from the spring found it was by far the top issue of concern with over 30 percent of the respondents self-selecting affordability of housing as the top issue, and nearly 80 percent overall found it to be a problem.

Moreover, when we talked to Bapu Vaitla, who appears likely to have won the council election, he noted that he felt like the conversation around affordable housing has changed.

He said, “What we kept hearing again and again … and I think the culture in Davis around affordable housing has changed. People’s kids who grew up here can’t afford to move back and rent, let alone buy.

Vaitla noted, “As the number of homeless goes up on the streets, as we see how many low income units we’re obligated to build that we haven’t made any progress on. I think it’s just people start being open to how do we build affordable, dense housing.

He said, “So we heard that a lot. Just kind of this new openness to what do we do about sensible housing.”

An LA Times editorial called it “a housing wave on election day.”

Up and down the state, voters largely backed pro-housing ballot measures, including taxes and bonds to build affordable housing, and rejected several measures aimed at making it harder to build.

We have seen support for affordable housing in many jurisdictions in California.

In Los Angeles, a mansion tax led as of Thursday with 53 percent of the vote.  The measure would impose a one-time tax on residential and commercial property sales that exceed $5 million. Proceeds would go toward the construction of affordable housing.

It was more mixed in Berkeley, with a revenue bond—that would have set aside $200 million to create 1,500 affordable units for low-income residents and people experiencing homelessness—which had only received 56 percent of the vote on a measure that needed a two-thirds threshold.

On the other hand, a vacancy tax in Berkeley appears to have won with 62 percent of the vote and a similar measure in San Francisco leads narrowly with 52 percent of the vote.

In Santa Cruz, that same measure appears to have failed with 60 percent voting no.

In Oakland, a bond measure that sets aside $350 million to buy, rehabilitate and build affordable housing, led with 71 percent of voters supporting it as of Thursday morning.

PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) released its survey of Californians on the eve of the election.

It found that 71 percent of Californians believe that the gap between rich and poor is getting larger and a similar number believe “the state government should do more to reduce the gap between the rich and poor.”

Among the policies, “overwhelming majorities favor government policies to increase the amount of affordable rental housing and to increase housing production so more Californians could purchase a home.”

Further, “Two in three adults, and three in four lower-income residents, support government policy to make college tuition free at both public two-year and four-year colleges.”

The survey found, “With California among the top five states with the highest average home prices, strong majorities of adults (73%) and likely voters (68%) favor government policies that would ease permit requirements and allow more housing to be built so that lower- and middle-income Californians could afford to purchase a home. Similar shares (76% adults, 71% likely voters) support government policies intended to increase the amount of affordable rental housing for lower- and middle-income Californians. Most adults across regions support these policies, as do majorities across all partisan and demographic groups.”

The LA Times concluded, “Californians want more housing that everyone can afford, and they proved that at the polls this week.”

Still, it remains to be seen locally what people are willing to do to get affordable housing.  In 2018 in Davis, they backed heavily a measure that would add around 150 affordable units, but they have opposed two DISC measures, both of which contained sizable affordable housing components.

Davis will have to plan for over 900 affordable housing units in its next Housing Element.

When the Vanguard spoke to City Manager Mike Webb in June he was not concerned about meeting the affordable housing allotment of just under 1000 affordable units.

“I don’t really think it will be a problem,” Webb said.  The city will have to lay out a rationale for the sites that will have to be pursued.  But even with the loss DiSC, Webb expects they can lay out enough infill sites to not have a problem meeting the housing needs.  Though he did say HCD might want to see a timeline where the housing can be built sooner rather than later in the cycle.

The Vanguard has been warning, however, that the city is running out of infill options, and here Mike Webb agrees.

“The next Housing Element cycle, that’s where the community will need to be reengaged,” Webb acknowledged.  “I don’t see us infilling our way to a Housing Element next time.”

Can we get there even this time, when the city is heavily relying on the downtown and infill to reach its numbers estimates?  That’s an open question.

The public says it wants more affordable housing, but is it willing to do what it takes to get it?  That remains an open question.

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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3 Comments

  1. Keith Y Echols

    The Vanguard has been warning, however, that the city is running out of infill options and here Mike Webb agrees.

    “The next Housing Element cycle, that’s where the community will need to be reengaged,” Webb acknowledged.  “I don’t see us infilling our way to a Housing Element next time.”

    I think it’s funny that at the top of this article is an add for Palomino Place that says “Infill Is The Answer!”.

  2. Todd Edelman

    Real infill IS the answer.

    We should have zero parking lots with a depth in at least one dimension of more than than two rows (four rows of parked vehicles), including on campus. But – e.g. with West Village – we keep on doing this.

    We should have an international competition on how to build over CA-113 roughly between Richardson and Covell. I don’t believe that the same thing – densification of a freeway trench in semi-suburbia – has been done anywhere in the USA.

    At the very least we should have a study on diverting 80 south of the city, obviously focused on the financial benefits of a frankly insane amount of infill for housing and workplaces in the former space, and likely raise in not only financial value of having a much more pleasant space there, instead of a continental freeway. There are other huge benefits, e.g. for logistics providers in West Sac.

    We need to build a rig that places a few more stories, built off site, over our many one or two story light industrial and business parking buildings (e.g. Research Park).

    Housing, services and jobs on many of these sites is walking distance to Downtown & the train station and/or UCD campus. This is an insane amount of innovation that will be funded by a democratic-controlled executive and legislature at the Federal level.  Huge awards and perhaps even immortality for anyone who leads it.

    As a concession, I won’t push for the PG&E space as much!

    I should have run for mayor!

    1. Keith Y Echols

      Nooo Todd!!!!   Big Bicycle (as secret cabal of bicycle manufactures and the Dutch) has gotten to you again to make these silly statements!   This just keeps occurring!  Hapless American tourists in Europe see the nice walkable/bikable cities and think; “why can’t the US be this magical?”  They then get mesmerized by the European way of life and I suspect the leaders of this Euro self-transit movement: THE DUTCH!  After Russia, it’s the Dutch we need to be vigilant about less more Americans come back and keep insisting on silly and impractical bicycle solutions in the United States.

      We should have zero parking lots with a depth in at least one dimension of more than than two rows (four rows of parked vehicles), including on campus. But – e.g. with West Village – we keep on doing this.

      Uh…that’s UC Davis.  Not the city of Davis.  UCD can build high rise Jetson style Space Needles and it’s not going to be part of the city of Davis.

      Diverting 80?  Bwahahaha!!!!  I know!  We’ll get one of those telekinetic X-Men mutants to move it for us!

      This is an insane amount of innovation that will be funded by a democratic-controlled executive and legislature at the Federal level. 

      Yes, Joe Biden will fund it himself!  He just needs Hunter Biden’s laptop to get access his FTX account so he can pay for it in cryptocurrency.

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