Housing Watch: Number of housing permits in Merced sees big jump

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Despite all of the new construction around town, Merced continues to struggle to meet the demand for housing.

"In the city of Merced, there's currently less than 1% vacancy rate for any type of housing," says City Manager Stephanie Dietz.

More people in search of more affordable housing continue to make that move to Merced.

"I think we have a young, up-and-coming vibrant town," says Mayor Matthew Serratto. "In 2020, we were the second fastest-growing city in the state."

The number of housing permits issued in Merced has steadily climbed in the past five years, going from just 17 in 2017 to 730 in 2021.

To encourage more building, city leaders say they're allowing more flexibility with zoning and housing types.

"We've actually streamlined the permitting process," Dietz said. "We've kind of cut through some of the bureaucratic red tape to get to construction."

You can expect to see more apartment complexes built in the area near UC Merced.

Mayor Serrato knows students would like to live closer to campus instead of renting a house in town.

As home prices continue to rise, the city wants to also focus on families priced out of the market.

"We actually have 2,700 affordable units that are entitled, ready for construction and we have 900 of those units that have been identified by local partners ready to move forward with construction," Dietz said.

City leaders were also able to increase funding for affordable housing by tapping into ARPA or American Rescue Plan money.

Matching funds went from $3 million to $15 million.
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