By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – The city of Davis, like many communities, found itself with a rejected Housing Element and thus out of compliance with the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). It took over a year of work and it appears that they have a Housing Element that will pass muster.
But from the standpoint of someone concerned about housing locally and elsewhere, I think what is proposed is going to fall well short of what the city can actually deliver.
Then again—why does anyone really care? So long as the city has a plan that can pass legal muster and get approved, a sizable percentage of the city’s population would prefer the city do the minimum that they legally can get away with.
On the other hand, from the standpoint of those who believe that this community has become increasingly expensive, who believes we have created a land use regime that increasingly excludes families with children and people of color, this is deeply problematic.
The group Sustainable Growth Yolo offered some critiques yesterday in a tweet stream.
First, they note that the site inventory is overly optimistic. For example, University Commons had their project approved, but they have announced that they are reworking their plan to be commercial only. That removes 264 units from the listing—but remains included on the listing of sites.
They note Nishi as well, which was approved in 2018, but has yet to break ground. There is plenty of criticism that people have thrown toward Nishi and the affordable housing component, but at the end of the day, that’s another 700 units that have yet to be built.
The same would be true for Trackside, which was approved, a much smaller unit number, but it’s not clear when if ever that project gets built as it remains in limbo following legal challenges and now an attempt to sell by current owners.
Sustainable Growth Yolo argues, “Re-zone sites w/shockingly high assumed development chance.”
There have been a number of sites over the last decade that gained approval and have not been developed. At some point, given the demand for housing, we should probably start asking more questions as to why that’s the case.
Second, Sustainable Growth Yolo notes that the “proposed changes to building Affordable housing calls on more public funds, programs.”
The city in fact is looking to re-work their Affordable Housing program. Cascadia, as we have reported a number of times recently, has called into question the viability of the city’s inclusionary housing program, but given the reliance on infill sites, it’s not clear where else the city can go for affordable housing.
In previously analyses, the Vanguard has noted the reliance of the Housing Element on downtown redevelopment—given that that is a huge number of units and a sizable percentage of low-income housing, I remain skeptical that much of that will ever be built.
Sustainable Growth also notes that the Housing Element relies heavily on requiring new sources for public funding.
They note the current budget situation with a $22.5 billion shortfall.
In the budget is about $15.3 billion for homeless reduction programs and $2.85 billion in affordable housing money. But housing advocates worry that while the money in the budget is welcomed, one-time money is not sufficient to solve the crisis and the amount of funding for affordable housing falls well short of what is needed.
The Biden administration has also called for actions to increase the availability of affordable housing—but it’s unclear how much money will actually arrive at local communities and, given the cost of construction and land, how much that much can actually build.
Finally, as the Vanguard as noted, the city is increasingly recognizing that affordable housing is not going to be solved through infill.
Writes Sustainable Growth Yolo, “The Housing Element zoning & Measure J/R/D reforms also hinge on a proposed 2024 city-wide ballot measure. Minimal details in the HE about what specifically would be in the measure. This makes it uncertain if reforms will happen & UC Davis on-campus voters will be excluded.”
We have noted the possibility of expanding Measure J exemptions for affordable housing. But we do not know at this time what that looks like and whether the voters will support it.
Last week San Francisco approved their affordable housing plan of the Housing Element.
San Francisco has been “using a combination of local, state, and federal funding to acquire for-profit privately owned multifamily housing and privately owned motels and hotels and convert these buildings to permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless people.”
They note, “Facilitated by local, state, and federal funding and policies, in recent years San Francisco has been acquiring existing rental housing, hotels, and motels for conversion to permanently affordable housing and supportive housing for the formerly unhoused.”
They add, “San Francisco has also acquired hundreds of housing units and hotel and motel rooms for use as Permanent Supportive Housing units for formerly unhoused people.”
The city of Davis has some land it could use to develop affordable housing. They might also look toward state and federal funding to purchase additional available land to further their goals.
But thus far, the city’s Housing Element is heavily reliant on an optimistic sites inventory and the chances of re-zoning various sites—despite the fact that history has proven this to be a very slow process.