Want Enough Doctors in Ukiah? Advocate for More Housing.

For years, I’ve been on the Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Community Advisory Council, where I get to learn about the hospital’s upcoming plans. Recently, the new hospital president, Jason Wells, shared exciting news about the hospital’s intention to build an 80,000 square foot medical office building northeast of Myers Apothecary. The new building will include a cancer treatment center, an urgent care clinic, and primary care doctors’ offices, and it should be up and running within a couple years.

Given my line of work, I immediately began wondering how many people would be recruited to the area to work in this fabulous new building, and where they would live, given our community’s housing shortage. The hospital expects to employ 150 people in the new building, some of whom already live in Ukiah, but many of whom will have to relocate here. Salaries for the new positions will range from $60,000 to $140,000 per year. The hospital also plans to recruit as many as 50 doctors who will earn $250,000 to $500,000 per year. People who make these salaries are people who can afford to buy homes. The problem is, we don’t have enough houses to go around.

In our community, we continually lose qualified candidates to other opportunities—in the medical profession and in other industries—because of our lack of housing. If we are to recruit enough doctors, nurses and other people we need, we better figure out our housing situation. Even before the new office building idea came up, we needed housing. Today, the hospital has 75 open positions, and they are not the only local employer with openings.

Let’s do a little math—everyone’s favorite. If 50 of the hospital’s current open positions are filled by out-of-towners—maybe people relocating from Paradise, for example; and 50 of the new employees who will work in the medical office building are out-of-towners and the hospital is able to recruit 50 new doctors, then we’ll need housing for 150 new households—or maybe 125 if we have a few dual-employee households. Where shall we put them?

In recent years, we’ve built some low-cost, subsidized housing, but almost no affordable, market-rate housing in the valley. To create enough market-rate housing for all these new residents, we better consider production housing; that is, we better build a couple subdivisions. Subdivisions allow developers to rely on the same infrastructure, similar floor plans and the economies of scale gained by bringing resources to a single location, making each house less expensive to build.

As most of us can attest, it’s no fun to get paid poorly for our work. Housing developers agree. If they can make a better profit in another community, that’s where they’ll go. We have to let our elected representatives and government officials know we support more housing. We need to encourage them to remove barriers like onerous inclusionary zoning laws and unreasonable fees. Inclusionary zoning is particularly frustrating. It requires real estate developers to give the county a certain percentage of the lots they develop or to pay a fee in lieu of the “gift.” It makes no sense.

There are two housing developments under consideration in Ukiah: Vineyard Crossing on Lover’s Lane north of town and Garden’s Gate near the Ukiah Valley Athletic Club south of town. The property developer, Guillon, Inc., is working hard to mitigate traffic concerns and address the other issues that typically arise with projects like these.

Frankly, there aren’t many places in Ukiah where new subdivisions can go given the flood zones, earthquake faults, geologic soil types, and restrictive zoning. Guillon may have found the last two places that are environmentally, politically and economically viable. Let’s proactively support these projects.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you send me an idea I use in a column, I’ll send you a $5 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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