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Napa housing vacancies scrape bottom

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Stoddard West Apartments in south Napa on April 26. The project will provide 50 new, affordable multi-family units to low-income families amid a housing crunch in which rental vacancies dropped to 1 percent, according to the city's annual apartment survey in July.

Napa apartments available to rent have become even rarer.

The vacancy rate for tenant housing has dropped to 1 percent, according to the results of a city survey of housing complexes last month. The extreme scarcity of open apartments extends a longstanding ban on converting rentals into condominiums, which Napa allows only when at least 5 percent of tenant units are available – a level not seen for 13 years as local housing demand has soared.

Housing supplies tightened from the 2017 vacancy rate of 2 percent, city assistant planner Jose Cortez reported to the Planning Commission recently. Such a paper-thin opening for renters places Napa well within the 3 percent level city zoning law defines as a “severe” rental shortage, the tightest possible.

Napa defines a rental housing shortage as a vacancy rate below 5 percent, which bars property owners from converting such apartments into ownership housing. The city last granted such conversion rights in 2005 when that year’s survey of rentals showed 5.6 percent of units to be available.

Vacancies slipped below the 2 percent level before rising to as much as 4 percent during the Great Recession, but have again dropped in the 2010s as economic recovery triggered booming interest in both housing rentals and sales in the Napa Valley.

Napa annually surveys local rental developments of 20 or more dwellings to determine the vacancy rate, and whether to allow or forbid condo conversions. This year’s survey took place July 23-29 and included telephone calls to apartment managers and leasing agents, as well as on-site visits, according to Cortez.

Various apartment developments have won city approval in recent years but have yet to be completed. Among the projects in the pipeline are the Vista Tulocay Apartments west of Soscol Avenue’s auto showroom corridor, which will include at least 283 dwellings and as many as 489. Other additions to the housing stock, such as the 51-unit Manzanita Family Apartments and the 50-unit Stoddard West Apartments, will be earmarked entirely for families making less than Napa’s median income level.

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.