The Davis City Council discussed an affordable housing work plan on Oct. 22 that addressed issues or plans for the low-income housing units in the City of Davis. The affordable housing program includes rental housing and offers options that range from shared equity and equity recapture through secondary loans and ongoing resale restrictions on ownership units.
Affordable housing is utilized by many groups in the Davis community as students, families and individuals find relief through the program.
“We’re a relatively small town with above-average home prices. That means it’s even harder here for folks to find affordable places to live,” said Michael Drane, community organizer of New Harmony Mutual Housing. “If we as a community don’t work to ensure that we have homes affordable for all, the economic health of the whole city will be negatively impacted.”
According to a press release from the Davis City Council, some housing units including rental houses also provide special needs housing for seniors, persons with physical disabilities, persons with mental disabilities and shelter beds for victims of domestic violence.
The Davis City Council agreed at the Oct. 22 meeting to address long-term issues related to the affordable housing units and projects.
“Once those projects are settled, we would focus our efforts on maintaining and rehabbing existing but older units, and work on two vacant land parcels that are meant for affordable housing,” said Kelly Stachowicz, City of Davis deputy city manager.
The Davis City Council will also come up with goals for green improvements and an increased accessibility of affordable housing, rental housing and ownership housing assistance programs, as well as ownership rehabilitation programs, including solar installation.
The press release states that these general directions will assist the city in managing limited resources within the affordable housing program, with the goals of preserving and developing affordable housing, efficiently using available resources and strategically utilizing staff time.
History of affordable housing in Davis
The city has had local affordable housing requirements since 1987. Since that time, approximately 1,000 rental units and 800 ownership units have been built under those requirements.
“Davis has always tried to provide a range of housing types to meet needs in the community,” Stachowicz said. “[As well as] an Affordable Housing Ordinance that spells out requirements for affordable housing.”
In the past few years, the City of Davis became owner of several affordable housing properties through refinances and foreclosures of 20 former Davis Area Cooperative Housing Association units. Their role as owner of these units in addition to the changes in resources requires strategic planning in order to address any issues and provide long-term success for these housing assets.
The Davis City Council is discussing these projects because they will be complex to fund and develop. Stachowicz mentioned that the state of California got rid of “Redevelopment Agencies,” which provided funding to build affordable housing in local communities. When Davis’ Redevelopment Agency went away, so did most of the city’s funding stream for affordable housing.
“Such a shift required for us to look strategically at what resources we have, what our needs are and what we can do realistically,” Stachowicz said. “Thus the work plan. Staff needed to know from the City Council what their priorities are.”
Because the redevelopment agencies left Davis in February 2012, the city has seen a dramatic decrease in affordable housing resources — reducing revenues for projects and staff by approximately $2 million per year. Many of the current projects are costly to maintain and underutilized, which is why they require timely action.
Pacifico affordable housing
Housing sites for students include the Pacifico Affordable Housing Project. The project was built in a dorm-style format and is financed in a way to accommodate low-income students. The project had vacancy challenges and went into foreclosure, which is why the City of Davis became the owner of the project.
“Pacifico has had some challenges due to its original configuration and deferred maintenance, but it is getting more occupied now that it has been beautified and updated by new ownership and management,” said Danielle Foster, Housing and Human Services superintendent for the City of Davis. “There is still work to be done on two of the four buildings that are not currently open [due to] upcoming construction, [but] I think it’s a very affordable option for students.”
There are currently 37 residents living at Pacifico Cooperative at the moment, with the total capacity being 48. The residents are a mix of students, non-students, adult former foster youth and local people. 65 percent of the residents are students attending UC Davis.
“There is a local need in Davis for affordable housing for students and for those who work in Davis,” said Johnathen Duran, from Pacifico Student Cooperative Housing. “Affordable housing not only fulfills a basic human need, but also contributes to the overall health and vitality of the community.”
According to Duran, the rent prices at Pacifico begin at $455 for a small one bedroom compared to a fair market rate of $741 for a single studio. Along with offering lower rent prices, Pacifico also provides all utilities, free parking, Wi-Fi internet access for its residents.
“Pacifico is a great housing bargain — definitely low cost time and money-saving family-style living for those interested in having the privacy of their own room and the benefit of shared communal areas,” Duran said.
Pacifico is now affiliated with Yolo County Housing (YCH), an independent California Public Housing Authority. YCH is dedicated to providing individualized, community-oriented services to the residents of Yolo County and to those communities and organizations who serve them.
New Harmony Mutual Housing
Another affordable housing project is the New Harmony Mutual Housing developments, consisting of 69 apartment homes with rent set at affordable levels with an income cap under which new residents must qualify.
“The recent vote by the Davis City Council could be especially harmful,” Drane said. “The Council approved a proposal to allow tiny apartments above garages or next to homes to count towards that requirement, but not to monitor whether or not these units were actually rented to folks with modest budgets. There is no guarantee that these units would even be rented, let alone rented at affordable rates. As a result, this proposal essentially strips Davis’ once model-affordable housing policy of any substance.”