Yesterday’s article (Analysis: Additional Campus Housing Will Help but Will Not Solve Housing Problems) attempted to analyze the revisions to the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) put forward by UC Davis. The intent was to analyze the extent to which the university’s plan addresses the housing shortfall in our community – the purpose was not to advocate a particular policy position.
In this column, I want to further distill a few points. My basic position at this point is that the LRDP put forward by UC Davis represents a good step forward in terms of the university willing to house more of the student population, accounting for most but not all of the enrollment increases.
First, there was a discussion stream where one poster stated that “you’re now including single-family housing, into the mix.”
The reason for that is pretty simple – the information released showed that the university would be adding about 500 faculty and staff on-campus housing in the next decade. Some plans have suggested that the university will be adding as much as 2000 faculty and staff to support the next wave of enrollment increases.
The commenter notes, “[I]f you’re going to include single-family housing in your argument, you should also include (‘add up the numbers’) of single-family dwellings under construction or imminent (e.g., The Cannery, Chiles Ranch, West Village, etc.).”
First of all, I’m not making an “argument” here, I’m assessing the extent to which the university is prepared to address housing needs.
Moreover, we are not talking about a lot of units. Cannery is 547 units total, Chiles Village is 108 and West Village will have 500 faculty and staff units. Of those, of course, only West Village is guaranteed to have faculty and staff residing in the housing. Given the timelines for hiring additional faculty and staff, it is unclear how much the other developments will take in. All told, we are talking well short of 1000 single family homes in the city – how many of those would go to faculty and staff remains undetermined.
Is this an important consideration? I think if you are adding employees without adding housing for them, then the question is where those people are going to live and, if they are commuting into town, that adds to traffic and carbon impacts. Again, I’m not making an argument about how to house them, only pointing out that is a consideration.
Second, in terms of student housing it seems clear at this point that, while the university is planning to increase their lot, what they are planning will not solve the problem.
There are several factors here that should be considered:
- UC Davis will house, at most, 40 percent of their students on campus – that would bring them closer to the top of the list than they are now. However, as a commenter pointed out yesterday, other campuses are planning to increase their lot as well.
- We know from history that just because the campus says they will build more housing does not mean that they will, in fact, build more housing.
- We have a housing crisis now. The 0.2 percent vacancy rate is causing problems ranging from exploitation of students, increased costs, inability for renters to assert rights to live in working housing, the increase in mini-dorms and students cramming into formerly single-family homes.
- We have not analyzed how many beds it would take to alleviate the above problems.
- UC Davis is planning to house 6200 students but they are adding 7000 or so. That means, on top of the current shortfalls or tight housing market, we need to find 800 more students places to stay in the next decade.
- Another commenter pointed out a timing issue. “Plus, the plan makes no estimate of when the new housing will appear. This means enrollment will continue steadily increasing from 32,130 in 2014-2015 to 39,000 in 2027-28, but that growth could very well outpace housing construction.” UC Davis is adding students and housing, but what happens if they add students on the front end and housing on the back end?
We are left with this. There is a group of people who believe that UC Davis has created the housing crisis. They have done so by adding more students without accommodating more housing. That is certainly a reasonable conclusion.
The question is whether the proposed solution is reasonable – pressure the campus to provide as much of the housing on campus as possible.
Certainly I have no disagreement with the idea that the university should take on more housing. Where I balk is on the implication that the city should take on no additional housing, even to accommodate current needs or the gap between the university’s enrollment and their proposed housing.
I am also concerned that the university does not have a good track record for following through on their commitments.
I am sensitive to the concern that the university could exploit the city by forcing the city to build more housing, but, at the same time, who would throw their basket of eggs into the idea that the city has the ability to solve the housing crisis?
In short, I believe a mixed strategy can and should work. There is a clear gap between housing needs and what the university is willing to build in the next decade. It is not such a huge gap that the city needs to radically change land use policies – three or more moderately-sized apartment complexes could do the trick.
The city should be able to add those complexes without taking the pressure off the university to follow through on their commitments. I think this should be a collaborative process rather than a contentious one.
—David M. Greenwald reporting