UC Davis’ West Village Frenzy: Students Flock To West Village Despite High Rental Rates

westvillageby Amani Rashid –

My dad taught me that only one thing that matters when it comes to housing in college: it’s all about affordability; well that and don’t live under insomniac tap dancers, apparently it results in many endless nights. But with all buzz surrounding UC Davis’ West Village apartments I’m starting to think there might be a little more to it than that.

The Ramble, the first complex of West Village, is said to open this fall, and although no models are open for public viewing at this time, the main office has been remodeled to look like the interior of the apartments and it has already seen hundreds of interested students.

So with the abundance of housing all over Davis why is it that this specific apartment complex sees more traffic than the 99? According to students it possesses several appealing characteristics.

First and foremost, these apartments are not just close to campus they are on campus! Nothing says convenience like waking up 10 minutes before class knowing you’ll still make it on time.

“I honestly always wanted to live on campus for the whole duration of my college career but with the slim selection of on campus housing available I’m stuck way the hell out in south Davis; I most defiantly plan to live in West Village,” was the all too common sentiment expressed by Danny Garcia, a second year chemical engineering major.

Not that proximity is not a vital aspect of ideal housing, but there has to be something more for an apartment complex, which charges more than $500 over the average Davis apartment rental rate, to garner this much popularity?

Well, try environmental responsiveness on for size.

Not only will this housing complex maintain a net zero energy community, by placing caps on all resident utilities, but also, the site and the buildings will enable students to use environmentally sound modes of transportation.

“Not to offend, but I feel like after being in Davis for a certain amount of time we all become hippies in one way or another, and not to buy into stereotypes, but the sustainability of this housing is just too impressive to not catch your attention.” Brandon Walker, a first year history major, echoed the respect the environmentally aware community pays to the eco-friendliness of West Village.

However, other students had to disagree with the idea that sustainability should equal high rent. “I get if you justify the expensive price for the sake of proximity; I mean it’s on campus, but to justify paying more because it saves the environment? I don’t buy it.” These were the controversial words of Kelly McClarin as she shook her head at the idea that energy conservation should dictate where you live.

Her justification however, shows a lot more rationale then one would initially assume: “Environmental awareness is a personal responsibility instead of being told how much energy I can use like a 5 year old I monitor my own waste; I take only 10 minute showers, I bike whenever I can, I turn the lights off when I leave the house; I recycle. We’re in college; we’re old enough take initiative.”

Sam Albin, a third year techno cultural studies major, expressed a similar attitude: “I’m no tree killer, but when you read up on West Village the only thing anyone ever has to talk about is West Village’s utilities cap, and I know that’s great and all but it just gets me because I feel like some people are just going along with this eco-friendly stuff like it’s a fad, kinda like celebrities and adoption. How often do these people recycle or plant trees?”  

The apartment complex will also provide several amenities, such as, a fitness center with a yoga room, outdoor kitchens, conference rooms and an outdoor fireplace with seating arrangements. Also, the interior layout is quite unique with a setup to include a bathroom for every bedroom.

However, the rental prices are slightly less attractive than the perks. A two bedroom goes for $1,840 per month a three bedroom starts at $2,375 per month and a four bedroom goes for 2,950 per month. These numbers put its rent well above the average Davis rental rates which put the starting price of a three bedroom at about $1,700 per month.

“It’s cool and no doubt it’s going to be high quality but that’s the thing, I’m in college I’m not so sure I deserve to live somewhere really nice and I most certainly don’t need to. I pay about $500 a month right now if I were to live in West Village I’d be at over $700 that’s money I just don’t have.” These were the words of Janet Lin, a third year biochemistry major, who saw beyond the glam and glitz of West Village and saw it for was to her; well beyond of her price range.

Whether all the interest in West Village is just that surrounding the initial release of a shiny new toy or genuine down-to-business renter’s interest is yet to be determined.
However, one thing is certain, with apartment complexes in Davis having trouble filling up their vacancies as more and more students look to cheaper housing in neighboring cities it’s nice to see this level of interest and this many students committing to a fall lease.

Amani Rashid is a second year UC Davis student who will be writing about UC Davis and student related issues for the Vanguard.

 

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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11 Comments

  1. E Roberts Musser

    Nice article! I would suspect proximity to campus, nicer amenities, and the newness are all important factors making West Village so attractive, despite the higher rent…

  2. Don Shor

    Nice article, thanks, though overall I find this depressing.
    It is frustrating that UCD’s contribution to the rental housing shortage in Davis consists solely of high-end apartments. So the university will profit from the ongoing housing squeeze, while lower- and median-income students will still have to find off-campus housing. Thus UCD hasn’t solved the problem they were building these for.
    With a rental vacancy rate below 5%, it’s a landlord’s market here and always has been. Rents in every community around Davis have been dropping, but here they’ve actually continued to increase. Much has been made of the contribution West Village would have made to reducing this problem. But it seems any benefits will trickle down, where the university had an opportunity to create more equity in the housing market.
    So as I’ve said before: Davis needs to encourage construction of more housing for lower-income residents, student and non-student, and that should be the priority of the council as they consider any new housing projects, zoning changes, and affordable housing policies.

    If I were on the city council, I would
    –vote against any proposed development that was not primarily rental units
    –move to abolish the current affordable housing policies immediately, and ask for an outside commission to propose effective affordable housing measures;
    –liaison with the university to encourage long-term development of affordable housing on campus.
    –review existing zoning throughout the city to consider changing sites to mixed-use that might encourage some compact residential units.

  3. Rifkin

    [i]”It is frustrating that UCD’s contribution to the rental housing shortage in Davis consists solely of high-end apartments. … Davis needs to encourage construction of more housing for lower-income residents, student and non-student, and that should be the priority of the council as they consider any new housing projects, zoning changes, and affordable housing policies.”[/i]

    I totally disagree. That is a complete misunderstanding of how markets work.

    What you are failing to account for with this “high-end” rental housing is that it will absorb demand that otherwise would have been a part of the demand for rentals in the city of Davis.

    With a given supply and reduced demand, the real price of housing in Davis will fall. And by doing so, that means that there is more housing which is “affordable.”

    [i]”With a rental vacancy rate below 5%, it’s a landlord’s market here and always has been.”[/i]

    That is correct, though your 5% number is misleading. The reason we have long had a landlord’s market in Davis is because the rental vacancy rate has long been under 2% or even under 1% for long stretches.

    Economists (and bankers) consider a 4% vacancy rate normal. Any higher than that and nominal rents should be falling. Any lower and rents will tend to rise.

    What policymakers (on campus and in town) should do is encourage an expansion of the overall supply of apartments for rent until occupancies are no higher than 96%. The new housing will most likely be high-end. But the drop in demand for older buildings will then lower the real prices renters pay for those older units.

  4. Rifkin

    I should add one thing to my post above: I assume that if new rental apartments are built in Davis, they won’t in an of themselves encourage new demand in Davis from people who now choose not to live here. If they do–I don’t think they will–then as supply goes up so does demand and we are back to where we started.

  5. Don Shor

    Actually, Rich, I do know “how markets work.”
    This project will barely cover the housing need that has been created by continued growth at UCD for the last decade. It will not cover the projected growth for UCD over the next decade. Rents in Davis have increased consistently for many years. For the first time last year, rents in nearby communities actually dropped. But they didn’t drop in Davis, because the supply was not growing sufficiently for the steadily increasing demand. I’ll be very surprised if this housing coming on line will do anything more than slightly reduce the rate of increase of local rents. I’d love to be wrong about that.
    Apparently the university believes that the real shortage is in high-end rental housing. So that is what they are building. Of course, the fact that such housing is more profitable is the likely determinant: I doubt that the housing officials gave even a moment’s consideration to building apartments in the $400 – $500/person range.
    That will, as you say, free up some of the other high-end housing around town for those who want that, which will in turn free up some median-range housing, which might free up some low-priced rental housing for those who need it. I believe we call that “trickle-down.”
    The immediate need in Davis is for young adults to have affordable housing. But nobody is building that. This is a missed opportunity.

  6. Alphonso

    Just to maintain perspective-

    Ten years ago it cost about $4000 per year for rent (shared housing) and $3000 per year for tuition and fees. West Davis will cost around $7000 (an increase of $3000) while tuition has climbed up to $12000 (a $9000 increase). The housing privides more utility (location,age of building and amenites) while the benefits derived from tuition remains unchanged.

  7. greatlizardking

    According to the figure(s) presented in the article above, it will cost the average person (student of UC Davis) nine hundred and twenty dollars to rent a single bedroom at West Village. And we’re sure that UC Davis isn’t going to have any problem finding high-end young people who can afford to cough up that kind of money. Lost in this discussion however, is any mention of those -many- people in this town who aren’t able to pay such a high rent. Do we hear anything from UC Davis to address this critically-important part of the discussion? No we do not.

  8. Rifkin

    [i]”This project will barely cover the housing need that has been created by continued growth at UCD for the last decade. It will not cover the projected growth for UCD over the next decade.”[/i]

    That is beside the point I made: more rental housing supply with a given demand will improve market conditions for all renters, even if the new housing built is “high end.” You more-less then went on to describe how the market process works. So it is strange for anyone to worry that this group of apartments is “high end.” We ought to just be concerned with the total supply relative to the total demand (which I realize you are).

  9. Rifkin

    [i]”Lost in this discussion however, is any mention of those -many- people in this town who aren’t able to pay such a high rent.”[/i]

    Low end renters benefit when the total supply of rentals goes up. What harms the interest of low-end renters is a restricted supply of ALL rental units.

  10. DT Businessman

    There is unquestionably a severe imbalance between supply and demand for local housing across all housing types. The imbalance for apartments is particularly severe, which then spills over to SFRs with students renting SFRs instead of the SFRs being available to families. The DDBA has been advocating for the construction of far more units in and around the downtown to help relieve the pressure. It is not a silver bullet, but every little bit helps.

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