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HomeImportant TopicsAffordable HousingRentals Percentage in Arcata: "Do the math"

Rentals Percentage in Arcata: “Do the math”

Here in Arcata, the ratio of non-owner-occupied (i.e. rentals) to owner-occupied housing is around a 63% / 37% split. That is, in Arcata 63% of the housing units are rentals, and 37% are owner-occupied.

Will the Gateway plan help with this ratio?
Will it allow more Arcatans to purchase their homes?

Arcata has a higher percentage of rentals than such college-prominent cities as Santa Cruz (53%), Berkeley (54%), or San Luis Obispo (59%).

For any new housing built in Arcata, if fewer than 37% of the units are not individually-owned and owner-occupied, then that 63% rental figure will get WORSE.

Do we understand this?

A ratio that would help the situation might be 50-50. Lets do the math:

Arcata has 8,031 units (2021 data). Suppose 2,000 new units were built. And that’s a lot of units.  You can think of this in terms of the quantity of “Sorrel Place”-sized apartment buildings.  (Sorrel Place is the recently-constructed building on 7th Street between I & J Streets — it occupies the length of the block.)  Sorrel Place is 4 stories, but let’s visualize that building as a 5-story building, with the ground floor being commercial spaces. There are 44 units in the building.

Creating 2,000 housing units would be the equivalent of putting up 46 block-long buildings that are 5-stories tall and the size of Sorrel Place.

That would give Arcata 10,031 units total.

  • If all new apartment buildings were 50% rentals and 50% owner-occupied, then for all of Arcata we’d have 40% owner-occupied – better than he current 37%, but not by much.

Is that enough of an improvement?

  • San Luis Obispo is at 41% owner-occupied and we’re at 37%.  It would take 57% of all new housing units to be non-rental to get to an average like San Luis Obispo.
  • To get to Berkeley’s 46% owner-occupied ratio? It would take 82% of all new housing units to be non-rental units to wind up with an average like Berkeley.

How about if 1,000 housing units are built? That’s a more reasonable figure than 2,000, and it will happen sooner. 

If 1,000 housing units are built it would then take 73% of all new housing units to be owner-occupied to get to San Luis Obispo’s 41%.

Does Arcata have the will and the clout to make a Form-Based Code with suitable amenities and encouragements and strength? So that developers will construct more than half of all new apartment units as owner-occupied — that is, as Condominiums?

And then with proper Home-Owner Agreements, those individually-owned condos would stay as owner occupied and would not be rented out?

Certain developers will build condos, because they like to and that’s their business model. But as Arcata Planning Commissioner Dan Tangney said at the February 8, 2022 Planning Commission [Read the full transcription here]:

In the last decade or more that I’ve been on the Commission nearly every project that’s gone through — particularly large projects — is rental-based, including our most recent four-story downtown project. I sure hope that this ambitious development in Arcata would include a lot – a lot — of options for home-ownership. I’m just wondering how we can influence that. I get that market forces are very real.  However if there is something that we can codify on this, I would sure love to see that included.

Reader: Please go to that transcription and read the response from Community Development Director David Loya, along with commentary, as well as his comments on “Supply and Demand” farther down in the article.  [link here]
And then you decide what you think of this.

Any real change in the percentage of rental units in Arcata does not seem likely to occur. Among the concerns are: If the requirements are too difficult, then developers just won’t build here.

On the other hand, if requirements for building new apartment units in Arcata are too easy, then we’ll basically have “more of the same.”

And the ratio of 63% rental housing in Arcata will continue… or will get worse.