Davis starting a closer look at housing needs

The region, and state’s, lack of housing supply is even prompting growth-averse Davis to take a longer look at its plans for the future.

City leaders kicked off a process this week that will eventually lead into an update of Davis’ general plan, by reviewing the new single-family homes and apartments in the city’s pipeline. Statewide, a shortage of housing has alarmed economic experts and pushed lawmakers to offer solutions. Builders cite a combination of labor and lot shortages and regulatory hurdles as factors in the lack of housing.

Screen Shot 2017-07-27 at 4.58.54 PM
A rendering of the planned Creekside Apartments project in Davis. 

This week’s report noted that Davis needs both houses and apartments. To raise the vacancy rate to 5 percent ­— it’s less than 1 percent now — the city would need 574 more apartments between now and 2021. And to reduce the amount of single-family housing stock used for rentals, Davis would need up to 485 additional apartment units.

“The thrust of the conversation is that there’s a variety of concepts in the pipeline,” said Mike Webb, an assistant city manager who participated in the presentation this week to the Davis City Council and planning commission. The city’s projections show 386 apartment units approved now but as yet unbuilt, and another 686 under review or anticipated in new applications.

If those projects are approved and built, they’d provide 1,072 units, a few more than the upper limit of 1,059 city planners believe Davis will need. Those projections, however, don’t take into account potential future city growth or enrollment growth at University of California Davis, which is also planning more housing on land the university owns.

Davis also has a 1-percent annual growth cap of 260 “base” units, which includes single-family homes and apartments, but exempts affordable housing, units in mixed-use projects and accessory units. From 2005 to 2016, the city didn’t reach the 260 mark in any year, and even including “exempt” units would’ve only reached it once, last year.

In the report, recommendations included encouraging development on sites within the city identified for housing development, considering rental needs and ongoing evaluation of housing proposals.

Though the council didn’t take any specific action this week, a workshop on affordable housing in Davis is scheduled for the fall, Webb said.

But updating the city’s general plan and zoning, and creating a new housing element due to the city by 2021, are likely future steps, he said. Webb acknowledged that new proposals aren’t easy in Davis for either infill or greenfield development. For example, a local ordinance requires a public vote before Davis can add land to the city for new development.

“We’re 0 for 3 since 2000 in those votes,” Webb said. “Obviously, we’re a community that has high expectations for projects.”

Article and image provided by: Sacramento Business Journal
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