Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Just Us in Davis: Cool or uncool?

JustUsW

By
From page A11 | July 28, 2013 |

The ability of Davis to provide affordable housing often has taken a back seat to the questions of controlling the city’s growth. This growth control is described as based on environmental or sustainable development values and part of Davis’ proud status as a “cool city.”

To be sure, the city’s extensive efforts to reduce energy and water consumption and waste generation, to promote biking and walking, and to encourage eating and buying local are impressive.

However, to truly become a cool city, Davis must include the issue of affordable housing in its strategies. This is because, without sufficient affordable housing, Davis is literally “driving up” its greenhouse gas emissions as those priced out of the local housing market commute from other communities to their jobs in Davis. Likewise, for those lower-income residents who are able to live here, their ability to contribute to the economic prosperity of the community is reduced by the burden of their housing costs.

Unfortunately, in its approval of a substantial revision of the city’s inclusionary housing policies earlier this month, the City Council majority may have taken a great leap backward on ensuring that Davis can walk the walk, and not merely talk the talk on sustainability.

In particular, by approving a provision that allows accessory dwelling units (popularly known as “granny flats”) to be counted toward developers’ and the city’s inclusionary housing requirements, the council majority opened the door to reducing, not increasing the supply.

While ADUs have been shown to provide affordable housing options in the San Francisco Bay Area, without clear regulations about the rents of these units, the city may be claiming a greater benefit than is warranted. Even a recent excellent study from UC Berkeley — “Yes in My Backyard: Mobilizing the Market for Secondary Units” — cited by some policy proponents cautions, “a program with a well thought-out policy rationale can fail if it is not well-matched to the appropriate target market.”

Ensuring that ADUs provide affordable housing for the “target market” the city seeks to serve will require a more detailed survey of rents for these units, including an analysis of who has access to this market and under what conditions and price points.

The stakes for getting it right are high. Based on research conducted by professor Chris Benner and colleagues at the UC Davis Center for Regional Change (full disclosure: I direct the center), Davis has been shown to have significant affordable housing problems.
See: http://tinyurl.com/lk6sexn and http://tinyurl.com/m75j5d9.

One study examines the location of affordable housing units relative to the location of low-wage jobs, sometimes called the job-housing fit. Ideally, housing affordable to low-wage workers is available near low-wage jobs. This is a benefit to workers as it allows for shorter commute times and reduced commute costs. It is also a benefit to the broader community and region because by reducing the number and length of commutes, the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants is also reduced.

Compared to the rest of the Sacramento region, Davis has an extremely skewed job-housing fit, with a much higher proportion of low-wage jobs compared to affordable housing. This translates into higher levels of commuting by low-wage workers into Davis, and this is why without adequate affordable housing, Davis cannot claim to be a truly cool city.

If the environmental argument were not enough, a second study shows that Davis has much higher average (between 29 and 39 percent) of its households paying more than half of household income on housing costs. In comparison, the average for the Sacramento region as a whole is only 19 percent. The implications of this high cost of housing is that even for those who can technically afford to live in Davis, their disposable income to spend in area stores, to pay for enrichment programs for their children, to save for college and so on, is greatly diminished.

Likewise, high housing costs exact a high opportunity cost as many graduates of our secondary and post-secondary schools move away, leading to a brain drain that no community can afford. In fact, if my family and I were in the housing market now, we would not be able to afford the home we currently own.

The City Council is to be applauded for exploring a range of options to respond to the loss of redevelopment funds that formerly contributed the bulk of resources needed for building affordable housing. Its members’ intention to increase the supply of affordable rental units, instead of only home ownership, is likewise a positive step.

While short-term actions are needed to ensure that Davis remains an affordable community for residents, there is also an immediate need to think long-term. Developing rigorous methods to assess the impacts of the council’s recent policy changes on the availability and access to affordable housing, including unintended consequences, would be a first step.

Cool is good, cool and just is better.

— Jonathan London, Ph.D., is a Davis resident and parent. He shares this monthly column with Jann Murray-García. Reach him at jklondon40@gmail.com

Comments

comments

Jonathan London

.

News

 
Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

 
Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Bauer garden marks one year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Grande site has been a convoluted saga

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

.

Forum

Already made herself at home

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

 
Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Keep our green waste piles

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
How to make a good living

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
Health problems mean he’s checked out

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A14

Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

 
This epidemic should scare us

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

.

Sports

Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

 
Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

 
California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

 
Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

.

Obituaries

Wanda P. Daley

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8