“Design Is King,” was the key message from City of Woodland’s Associate Housing Analyst, Jamie McLeod, to about a dozen housing developers who attended an orientation conference on June 3, in advance of their potential submittal of affordable-housing project proposals on June 19.

A detailed process of consideration by the city will result in awarding, on June 30, one development project with a commitment of priority effort by city staff, toward its eventual approval and construction, with remaining projects ranked in order of municipal preference for future attention.

Woodland City Council recently approved issuance of a pertinent Request For Proposals (RFP) — launching what City staff refer to as a “proactive” posture to better attract and more advantageously process proposals for affordable housing development, leading to enhanced value for the community (Please see previous Yolo Sun News Report:  City Of Woodland Launches New Affordable Housing Development Process).

Developers came from as far away as San Francisco and Fresno to attend this orientation conference, although the majority of developers were of local origin.

___  Mayor and City Staff Outline Salient Details of Process  ___

Woodland Mayor, Skip Davies, was on hand to offer a statement following the staff presentation and help answer questions — which impressed several attending developers. “Thanks for being here, and being interested in us,” said Davies, who also described several relevant facets of City consideration of these housing proposals.

Both Davies and McLeod emphasized that one basic aspect of consideration will be project options involving acquisition and rehabilitation of existing development, rather than potential new construction.

A seven percent (7%) grading advantage for rehabilitation projects is part of the detailed consideration process, although McLeod stressed that new construction projects will certainly be seriously considered. It would seem that a primary component of consideration: “Design is King” would better apply to new construction projects.

Municipal funds accumulated for new construction of affordable housing, related to the ongoing Spring Lake Specific Plan Area, now total about $1 million, for potential use on 74 dwelling units. This factor of incentive, combined with the emphasis on “design,” serves to more or less balance the grading scale for new construction proposals, with inherently higher ranked acquisition – rehabilitation projects.

McLeod mentioned that tenant relocation costs and a “physical needs assessment” (for specific, project funding purposes) should be included, in the case of rehabilitation projects.

“We’re not shy about going after funding,” declared McLeod, referring to the city’s capacity to cooperate with affordable housing developers and facilitate their obtaining of necessary capital to accomplish municipally desired projects.

“Plus, we’re fun to work with,” declared McLeod.

Possibilities exist to obtain various financial bonds and tax credits to support such development, as well as to secure “Infill Incentive Grants” from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Energy efficiency subsidies, historical preservation grants and density bonuses represent other possible avenues of resource.

___  Police-Magnets Targeted for Rehabilitation Proposals  ___

Davies briefly discussed the fact that several — “five of six” — existing housing developments in the city are disproportionately large consumers of public safety services, namely police.

Rehabilitation and improved management of such housing developments, he said, would substantially benefit the community.

McLeod also noted elevated council and community interest regarding potential developer acquisition and rehabilitation of several housing complexes

Investigations by Yolo Sun have revealed that the most powerful — police-magnet — in Woodland is the apartment complex located at 555 Matmor Road, which has long been referred to as — “the Triple Nickel” — by both city staff and local crack/meth-addicts.

City staff indicate, however, their understanding is that the owner(s) of “the Triple Nickel” isn’t interested in selling this apartment complex for rehabilitation.

___  Housing Challenges and Opportunities  ___

Another affordable housing challenge noted by Davies during the orientation conference, is that Cache Creek Casino supplies about 1000 relatively low-income residents to Woodland, from its total workforce of around 2800 employees.

Woodland also houses a considerable number of employees and students of the University of California, Davis.

Davies mentioned that, “there are three or four [suitable] parcels with nothing on them,” throughout the city, which would likely be available for new-construction infill projects, implying that the city would assist interested developers in discovering such opportunities.

Davies also noted opportunities for development on parcels with existing structures.

McLeod noted that Woodland has a greater than 90% occupancy rate in its affordable housing developments, with waiting lists for some apartment complexes.

According to governmental policies, 20% of dwelling units in an “affordable housing” project must be reasonably available to persons earning less that 50% of local median income, while 80% of units must be targeted to persons earning less than 80% of median income — with certain financial incentives arranged to promote those 80% of units being available to persons earning less than 60% of local median income.

___  Key Advantages of Affordable Housing Developments  ___

Important advantages exist, according to McLeod, in terms of legal requirements applying to affordable housing development — with regard to management operations.

When public funds are used to support such development, law demands that a responsible and accountable system of tenant management is implemented. In other words, governmentally supported “affordable housing” is prevented from becoming a siphon of public services and a public-safety concern, such as “the Triple Nickel.”

Maintenance of high-quality management practices, as a legal requirement, is a very durable value for the community, inherent in “affordable housing” developments, emphasizes McLeod in remarks made to Yolo Sun outside the conference.

___  Developer Reaction  ___

Responses of attending developers was perceptibly positive, especially from Larry Del Carlo, President and CEO of Mission Housing Development Corporation of San Francisco, a non-profit housing developer — with 38 years of experience.

Del Carlo stated during the orientation conference that the style and approach of the City’s Request for Proposals (RFP) indicates that Woodland has — “the political will” — to accomplish its goal of best developing affordable housing.

“That makes it interesting for us [to pursue],” continued Del Carlo.

Interviewed subsequent to the conference, Del Carlo repeated that it requires civic leadership to successfully create such housing development. When asked to elaborate on his perceptions, he said that a “cooperative” attitude “was evident,” that city staff has “experience with this process,” and displays a “willingness to work” to achieve its goal.

That the city “has identified local funding sources,” like the $1 million pooled for affordable housing from the Spring Lake Specific Plan, as well as providing a wide variety of development incentives, demonstrates both municipal leadership and resolve, said Del Carlo.