Lack of Low-Income Housing Raising Eyebrows in Davis


AffordableHousingby Jerika L.H.

Recent abuses of power at a local low-cost housing complex have raised questions and concerns among residents about the dire lack of affordable housing in Davis. Constant cuts in funding have resulted in a significant loss of federal funds for the Davis Affordable Housing Program.

According to the City of Davis, 71.5% of local households are classified as low-income, with 25% of this population making below what they need to pay their monthly rent. The Federal Census Bureau indicates that 51% of college students are living well below the poverty threshold, which translates to approximately 18,000 students in Davis.

For some, the combination of astronomical tuition rates and the high cost of living is too expensive to maintain, contributing to steep college drop out rates. Due to the constant influx of students arriving every year to attend UC Davis, landlords have the privilege of knowing properties will always be in demand.

This drives up rent prices and has resulted in local properties averaging up to $525 more per month than the recommended rent prices for low-income occupants.

Cal Housing Finance researcher and activist Matt Palm explains. “People think because Davis is on track to meet the Regional Housing Needs Assessment – the fair share affordable housing mandate from the state – that it is doing enough for affordable housing. This is a joke. The RHNA ensures a minimum number of affordable units are zoned for and is not in any way an insurance to write off building any more housing than that. The lack of Land available is the result of choices by the community as much as anything else. ”

The low-cost housing units which are present in Davis have extremely long waiting lists, with some locals waiting years to hear back on their eligibility. The growing number of commuter students is another testament to the serious attrition of affordable housing in the community.

Apart from students, the lack of low-income housing seriously affects seniors, individuals with disabilities, SSI recipients, single parent families, and at risk populations such as former foster youth and former victims of domestic abuse.

A series of identity thefts perpetrated by a local low-income housing manager has led some to question the severe vulnerability of those looking for help in already limited places. Prospective renters and tenants must surrender a great deal of personal information in order to qualify for low-income housing subsidies.

They are often exploited. Additionally, low-income renters are less likely to report violations, out of fear of losing their in-demand units. Matt Palm expands: “Once people get in, there is real fear about losing eligibility or moving out. We have people accepting homes in the summer without AC because it’s all they can afford and they just ‘sweat it out’ until winter. For example, an AC had broken and this student was (illegally) told it would be $200 a month rental increase to pay for a new one… It’s not that uncommon.”

Low-income renters are also more likely to be subject to illegal evictions and lockouts and usually lack the legal support needed to uphold their rights. The City of Davis cites loss of funding and land availability as the two main barriers in alleviating the growing problem of the high cost of living in Davis.

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26 thoughts on “Lack of Low-Income Housing Raising Eyebrows in Davis”

  1. South of Davis

    Jerika wrote:

    > According to the City of Davis, 71.5% of local

    > households are classified as low income

    I know we have some poor people in town, but 71.5% seems a little high to me (I would be interested in what “city” report calls almost all of us “low income”)…

    P.S. to SODA below is a link to the identity theft story:

      1. South of Davis

        David wrote:

        > If you characterize rentals (which is more than

        > the majority) as low income…

        Don recently posted a link that the average “apartment” rent in town was almost $1,500/month.  Most landlords require an income of at least 3x the rent to move in so (forgetting all the people that rent expensive homes & condos or own expensive homes & condos) and just looking at the households that “rent” apartments in town “most” have a total annual income of well over $50K/year (some way way over $50K a year since it costs close to $50K a year in “rent” for the nicest of the new 4 br apartments in the West Village)…

        P.S. I’m still interested in seeing the “city” study that calls 71.5% of any group in Davis “low income”.

        P.P.S. Driving past the “low income” apartments in town I have NEVER seen a car in the parking lots that are older than my (21 year old) car (over the past few years driving past the front and riding past the back of New Harmony I have seen quite a few “new” cars in the parking lot that don’t even have license plates yet)…

        1. David Greenwald

          But there are ways around that. First, the mini-dorm phenomena where students simply pack into a place to reduce the rental rate per person. Second, when I was young and not making money, I simply had my parents co-sign lease which avoided the problem. I don’t have all the data, but at this point, I wouldn’t dismiss it.

    1. SODA

      Thanks for the link. The vacancy rate at Pacifico affordable housing keeps coming up. David, is there a story there perhaps in light of this story citing lack of affordable housing?

    2. sisterhood

      Good morning South,

      I hate to be a stickler for semantics but many low income folks don’t use the word poor when describing themselves. Perhaps Frankly can relate to this, due to his use of the word “victim”.

      Some of my richest moments in life were when I lived low income. As I’ve mentioned in the past, when my dad worked three jobs, as a child, I had no idea we were lower mid class.

      When I was older and lived on 30 acres in a mobile home in the middle of the Willamette Valley, no phone, no t.v., I had moments of absolute serenity and I was what many would consider lower mid class income.

      When I was working 45 – 60 hours a week to keep my rent up in Davis, and do the job I loved, I did not always feel “rich”.

      Life is a balance. Poverty is in the eye of the beholder.  Every person in this beautiful country of hours deserves the dignity of a roof over their heads and enough food to eat. Thanks.


  2. Misanthrop

    “The City of Davis cites loss of funding and land availability as the two main barriers in alleviating the growing problem of the high cost of living in Davis.”

    There is no lack of land just a lack of will.

  3. Frankly

    Oh Jesus.  College students are below the poverty level for completely legitimate reasons.  They have not started their careers yet.  What, is the expectation that they should make six-figure incomes while attending school?

    When you remove the college students from the economic demographic numbers for Davis, Davis becomes a very affluent city.

    Will you people stop irritating me taking everything you can find to justify your THE WORLD IS A TERRIBLY UNFAIR PLACE WITH A LOT OF POOR AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE THAT I NEED TO SAVE!

    The students of UCD are an exclusive bunch.  They are lucky and blessed with academic gifts that allow them to attend.  Please stop trying to make them into victims to justify continued membership as a social justice crusader.

    And if you want to help the students, start asking why the cost of higher learning has escalated much faster than the rate of inflation over the last 30+ years.  If you look into that you will see that it is the standard unionized public sector employee race to the bottom where the union’s puppet politicians do the looting from taxpayers that feeds larger pay and benefits and bloating of the number of employees.   The ratio of administrators to the number of students has continued to increase.  The escalating cost of high learning is basically the result of a lack of anything resembling financial/budget prudence.   Instead of making college more affordable, college administrators build ego shrines and fancy facilities.

    1. Tia Will


      Will you people stop irritating me taking everything you can find to justify your THE WORLD IS A TERRIBLY UNFAIR PLACE WITH A LOT OF POOR AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE THAT I NEED TO SAVE!”

      Probably not since some truly believe that those to whom much is given have the duty to help others……and frankly, you seem to be quite irritable.



    2. Miwok

      A Lot of the “poverty” in Student resumes is as fabricated as the Third year Engineering student who claimed to be a Professor of Chemistry in the UCD Directory. He also liked to try and hack computer networks until I caught him in 2003. Strangely, he left shortly after.

  4. Eileen Samitz

    I am rather surprised that the author did not raise the issue of how the Nishi Gateway project of 650 units  is getting away without building ANY affordable housing.  This privilege  for such an enormous number of housing units project has NEVER been granted in the history of Davis. What a “sweetheart deal” Nishi Gateway got. Plus, this would not give us any SACOG fair share credits in the low and very low income housing categories which are the hardest ones to fulfil.

    Just to get a feel for how many units and the number of residents is being crammed into Nishi Gateway’s mere 47 acres, 650 units is the same number of housing units in Wildhorse, but the densities on Nishi Gateway are greatly increased to 60 units per acre, which also has never been done in the history of Davis. My point is it is the same number of units but even MORE people will live at Nishi Gateway since it will take more people per unit to be able to afford the expensive apartments there. So you will have doubling and tripling up of students per bedroom that is not allowed on the UCD campus. The City can not control the number of students per bedroom like UCD can on campus.  So the circulation impacts will be magnified even more.

    This ratio of students to bedrooms of 1:1 which is enforced on campus and can not be enforced in the Cty, means that Davis taxpayers are subsidizing UCD housing in many ways including the fact that we are paying for the infrastructure of water, wastewater treatment, and these capacities are being expanded currently at Davis taxpayer expense and the City services. So students need to be on campus to have UCD use it own infrastructure on its own land, to reduce the commuting costs, to gave dedicated housing for the students and to subsequently free up rental housing in the City new being primarily used by UCD students, leaving very little rental housing for non-student workers. Just to clarify, this is not the fault of the students who are forced off campus after their freshman year, it is UCD’s negligence in providing the promised on-campus housing and our community is having to deal with the consequences.

    Getting back to the Nishi Gateway “sweetheart  deal”, the obvious question is where did Staff come up with this special privelage for Nishi Gateway? Staff member Katherine Hess who worked on the original pre-development (Nov. 27, 2012 Staff report) needs to be asked this question and other “sweetheart deals” about that pre-development agreement including this was done in 2012 before any changes were made to our housing element on affordable housing rules. How was this legal?

    1. tj

      This is not the 1st time Katherine Hess has helped out a developer, outside the rules.

      City staff supported “affordable housing” such as DACHA and Dos Pinos, even though residents are/were required to purchase “shares” in the projects of tens of thousands of dollars per household, i.e., affordable housing for those who are not low income at all.

      Some of these affordable projects have been a huge waste of city money and city staff time.


    1. South of Davis

      Don wrote:

      > The logical approach to providing truly affordable housing is housing

      > vouchers, as (I believe) suggested by Rich Rifkin many years ago.

      > Anything else is not going to succeed in the current, past, or future

      > Davis housing market.

      If the “goal” was to “provide affordable housing” this would be a great idea, but the goal of “affordable” housing projects is really to “payback campaign donors”.

      The recent “New Harmony” project on Cowell is a good example where the (overpriced) land was purchased from campaign donors then the (overpriced) services of campaign donors designed the place and (overpriced) union labor built the place that is run by an (overpriced) politically connected company.

      Rather than letting the place sit more than half empty for half a decade the city could have leased the “Pacifico” project to a private firm and given the tens of thousands in income each month to a hundred of families to help them with their rent.  The city is now giving hundreds of thousands to politically connected firms to get it in shape for a politically connected firm to run providing lots of “patronage” jobs going forward to hand out to the kids of donors…

  5. WesC

    “This ratio of students to bedrooms of 1:1 which is enforced on campus…”

    This is not true by any stretch of the imagination.

    Examples of dorm housing student density on campus is as follows:  Alder 2-3/room, Bixby 2/room with 4 single rooms, Gilmore 2/room with 4 singles, Malcom 2/room with 4 singles, Miller 2-3/room, Regan 2/room with 7 singles, Thompson 2-3/room etc… So the general rule for dorms rooms seems to be 2-3/room.

    Examples of UCD apartment student density on campus is as follows: Arlington Arms 1-2/bedroom, Colleges at LaRue 1-2/bedroom, Primero Grove 1-2/bedroom.  Adobe and Lexington are single occupancy bedrooms.

  6. Miwok

    According to web site bragging, UCD claims that over 50% of student pay NO Tuition. But as students will all tell you, the FEES are the killer, way more than tuition.

  7. Alan Miller

    Low income housing is a scam and a sham.  It creates a two tier spread where the losers are the lower middle class, and money is skimmed by government and developers leaving less money in the pie.  However, government officials can’t say this because they have to play the game to “get theirs” for “their people”.

    Good morning Davis!

  8. Alan Miller

    with 25% of this population making below what they need to pay their monthly rent.

    Then how do they pay their monthly rent?

    The Federal Census Bureau indicates that 51% of college students are living well below the poverty threshold

    Because they aren’t earning income yet.  That’s a well documented reason why college towns show a skew in the direction of “poverty” when in actuality it’s students who aren’t earning because they are learning to earn.

  9. Biddlin


    in a galaxy not too far away…


    …Housing policy is on the front-line of UK politics. Both Conservatives and Labour agree there needs to be significant increase in supply, but there is a clear divide on what to build. For the Tories it is about measures to encourage home ownership while for the opposition the focus is on homes for social rent.

    Housing is not just about putting a roof over people’s heads – it is ideological. Parties accuse each other of ‘social engineering’ in the policies they are putting forward.

    Homeowners are more than twice as likely to vote Conservative as Labour and those in social rented homes are more than twice as likely to vote Labour as Conservative. Housing has always been tribal.

    It is generational too. According to the last census, among the over 50s more than 80% are owner-occupiers. But among the under 35s, a majority are in the rented sector. What is more, twice as many pensioners voted Conservative as Labour at the last election.

    Few deny that Britain is facing a housing crisis, although its real impact is felt most acutely in the south of England – and nowhere more so than the city of Oxford which, according to the council leader, is facing catastrophe because of it.

    Bob Price of the Oxford City Council:

    “Our University is unable to recruit and retain key people, the city hospitals cannot get enough doctors and nurses, high-tech industries like BMW and Mini are unable to maintain the workforces they need,” Mr Price argues. “The major institutions of the city are in danger of grinding to a halt.”…

    The man who runs Oxford Bus Company, Phil Southall, is actively considering building a staff dormitory because he cannot attract enough bus drivers to keep services going…

    Oxford can’t expand because of what some call the green garotte, a ring of greenbelt land where it’s almost impossible to build homes.

    Could be Davisville, in another 1000 years.


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