Monday, November 21, 2005

Ready and Rented

Ready and Rented
New Dixon Apartment Complex Highlights Need for Affordable Housing
By Amanda Janis/Business Writer

More than 100 new, affordable apartments are almost ready for renting in Dixon's 210-acre Valley Glen residential community. There's just one hitch: 300-plus names are already on the waiting list.

Poised to open Dec. 1, Bristol Affordable Apartment Homes will rent for between $692 and $1,152 per month, and are available to households whose annual income does not exceed 50 percent to 60 percent of the Solano County median income, which was $73,900 for 2005.

For those lucky enough to have signed up before completion of the complex, Bristol's pet-friendly apartments - which range from 651 to 1,070 square feet - will be an extraordinary solution to the difficult problem of finding affordable housing. The complex not only offers one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with fully equipped kitchens, but also boasts covered parking, laundry centers, and even a community center that will offer residents various services, including a computer lab with internet access.

When told how many people were on the Bristol waiting list, Mayor Mary Ann Courville remarked, "Obviously, it's a sign that we have to do more."

Vacaville Housing and Redevelopment Interim Director Cindy Johnston concurs, saying she isn't surprised by such a substantial waiting list at Bristol. Vacaville Housing and Redevelopment has a contract with the Solano Housing Authority to work with unincorporated regions of the county, as well as several Solano County cities, including Dixon.

"Dixon has a huge problem," she said, noting that at one point in the past Vacaville was contracted to work with the city of Dixon on housing and redevelopment issues. "One of the things we observed right away was a very acute shortage. There's a huge demand, because there just isn't anything in Dixon."

Courville agreed. "We know that there is a need for affordable housing," she said, "and unfortunately past councils didn't make that a requirement of past housing projects. We have now made that mandate of all housing projects to do the 80/20 split."

The "split" mandate requires that at least 20 percent of all new housing developments in Dixon be affordable for mid- to low- and very low-income households. Several such projects are already underway or have recently been approved, according to the mayor.

Dixon residents are certainly not alone, however, in their quest for affordable housing. The problem is ubiquitous in California, according to John Quigley, professor of economics at University of California, Berkeley and author of several works on affordable housing issues in California.

"I think it's pretty clear that housing in general in California has been increasing substantially in price," he said in a telephone interview. "I would point to the extreme difficulty of producing housing in California - and particularly rental housing - to the extent that we insist on producing barriers to the erection of new housing. Regulations really make it hard to add to the housing stock."

Quigley said that point, especially in California, is really relevant. "Somehow we don't have much to facilitate new construction," he said. "We have all sorts of noble ecological reasons to prevent it, for the benefit of people already living here."

As a result, he said, "We should expect that there's going to be a scarcity and prices are going to go up."

Quigley's comments were largely echoed by one of the two firms managing Dixon's Bristol apartments, Fairfield Residential.

"There's a lot of demand," said spokeswoman Kitty Calahan. She explained that any plans to build more affordable housing units in the area - which is currently not on the firm's agenda - would depend largely upon the ability to purchase suitable land.

Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation is the other firm managing the Dixon apartments, they could not be reached for comment.

Amanda Janis can be reached at

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