Monday, April 18, 2005

Travis AFB off-base housing need growing

Article Launched: 04/13/2005 09:58:25 AM

Off-base housing need growing

By Barbara Smith/Business Writer

The migration of residents off Travis Air Force Base, Vacaville's slow growth and how both will affect the real estate market were outlined to more than 200 Realtors at the annual American Home Week breakfast Tuesday in Fairfield.

"Solano County - Then and Now" kicked off American Home Week, a nationwide celebration in its 53rd year. Vacaville City Councilman Chuck Dimmick and Mark DuPree, housing manager for Travis, addressed members of the Northern Solano County Association of Realtors at the Holiday Inn Select.

DuPree noted that 62 percent of the 7,944 military personnel at Travis live off base today, a segment that has been growing and will continue to swell as some base housing is demolished.
Most military families who live in Vacaville, Fairfield and Suisun City - about 15 to 20 percent - purchased their homes. "We'd like to see it higher," DuPree said.

Realtors are a vital link in the housing transition, he said. In the past three years, more than 800 members of the military have moved off base. Depending on the number of years enlisted, housing allowances for the military have increased up to 26 percent. An "E-4," or senior airman enlisted with dependents, now has an allowance of $1,591, an increase of $331 from 2004. A dual military couple, with children, receive allowances which equate to even more.

As of March of this year, Travis will convey 2,727 homes in its privatization process, whereby developers will build and manage single- and multi-family housing. They hope to award the contract in 2006, DuPree said. Councilman Dimmick said one of Vacaville's goals is to provide housing for military members, but it has been difficult.

While Vacaville has become more industrialized with biotechnology companies setting down roots, high-paying jobs in the Bay Area have turned the city into a "bedroom community," producing a cascade effect whereby local wage earners must move to outlying communities and Sacramento afford a home.

"It's a regional problem ... but the Bay Area is our main culprit," Dimmick said. One of Vacaville's primary concerns today is to strengthen the local job market by 1,000 new jobs a year, he noted.

He said city official's strategies that are now bringing in dividends include the expansion of Alza Corp. and Genentech. In the future is the redevelopment of the Nut Tree, a new Kaiser hospital and development of lower Lagoon Valley.

Vacaville is not "bursting at the seams" in housing growth, but city officials envision a final "build-out" that comprises 125,000 people, 40,000 homes and 53,000 jobs, a jobs-to-housing ratio of 1-to-3. Dimmick was asked about the status of Lagoon Valley, and the level of resistance against the development planned there. He said the decision about Lagoon Valley was made in 1990, and while a fringe group opposes it, a "majority of the people that understand the issues ... are supportive."

Barbara Smith can be reached

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