Adding New Homes
State mandates a look ahead
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer
Article Launched: 07/27/2007 07:13:13 AM PDT
Solano County should plan to add 12,985 new housing units between 2007 and 2014, mostly in Vacaville, Fairfield and Vallejo, according to a draft housing report released by the Association of Bay Area Governments this month.
The draft Regional Housing Need Allocation says Vacaville will need 2,901 new units, while Fairfield will need 3,796 units and Vallejo will need 3,100 units.
The process is a state mandate on planning for housing in California. Regional and local jurisdictions also have a role to play. In the case of ABAG, the state determines the regional need and ABAG allocates that need to the jurisdictions.
Each city decides just where the housing will be built.
Several local government officials said the report's recommendations were along what they had anticipated.
"They're kind of what we expected for the county," said Supervisor Mike Reagan. "This is a much more palatable outcome than what happened last time."
Reagan said the numbers assigned last time around were far too high, Vacaville City Councilman Chuck Dimmick agreed.
Dimmick served on the committee that developed the recommended methodology for the report. He agreed that the recommendations in the last report - put together in 1998 for the years 1999 through 2006 - were unrealistic, pegged at 18,681 for the county and 4,636 for Vacaville.
He said the latest recommendations are still too high for his taste but "it's much more achievable than the last one."
ABAG is accepting public comment on its recommendations until Sept. 18, and will then have 60 days to respond to requests for revisions. After the revisions, local governments will have an additional 60 days to appeal the revised numbers, with a public hearing on the appeals scheduled for 2008.
Final allocations will be made by April of next year, and adopted by June.
The recommendations are divided into four income categories - very low, low, moderate, and above moderate. The challenge, according to Reagan and Dimmick, is to meet the very low and low recommendations.
"We live in a market-driven society," he said. "Everybody realizes that cities can't subsidize that quantity of low- and very-low-income housing. If we lived in North Dakota, we might be able to. In California, it's almost impossible."
However, Dimmick said the city of Vacaville is still sensitive to the need for low-cost housing, and is trying to meet the goal by converting older apartment buildings.
Supervisor Barbara Kondylis, who was also on the Housing Methodology Committee for ABAG, said she was glad to see the report allocate more housing to bigger cities, such as San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland.
"It's the fairest it's ever been," she said of the report. "It took smart growth into account and reasoned that it makes sense to allocate houses in communities that have good transit systems."
Dimmick said many locals feel that too much housing has been built in Vacaville recently, and that the report may lead to even more development. He emphasized the numbers do not reflect how many new units the city has to build, but rather what local governments should prepare for.
"It's a target that we should plan for in our general plan," he explained. "If your general plan is not in compliance, you're basically put under the microscope" and could be fined or denied funds by the state.
Dimmick also said the perception of too many homes being built in Vacaville is not accurate. He said some residents he's spoken to recently estimated the number of houses built in the last few years at 2,000 to 2,500, when in fact the average in the last three to four years has been just 200 to 325 houses per year.
"People look at us and say, 'We're growing out of control,' " Dimmick said. "But we really aren't."
Shelly Meron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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