For about the last year, as the university has planned their Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), there has been a renewed focus on housing provided on the UC Davis campus. The consensus that I have seen from the people in the community, whether they be no growth, slow growth, or more growth, is that the university needs to do more to provide housing.
That was certainly made clear in Jim Gray’s column on Monday. As he put it, “Clearly, UCD was relatively successful in delivering units since 2005. I think we should acknowledge their efforts and encourage them to do even better.”
The university has agreed to provide 90 percent of all new students with on-campus housing, bringing up their share to 40 percent of all students on campus. The city council and members of the community want to see them go further and provide 100 percent of the housing for new students and 50 percent of all students.
The Vanguard supports the council position here and thinks that the university can do better. I want to be clear on that point, because it gets lost sometimes in the next point.
Last week, I met with Jim Gray and his associate and he shared with me the data that he presented in op-ed on just how few apartments Davis has added in the last decade – I knew it was a low number because, since 2006, running the Vanguard, we follow this closely, but this was an eye-opener.
These are stunning figures – since 2005, UC Davis “has provided on their land and in public private partnerships 61% of all apartment units built and 68% of all bedrooms built.” Only 5 percent of the units that have been built in the last decade have been market rate units within the city. Jim Gray writes, “That amounted to only 56 units and 175 beds. In other words, less than 5 units per year for the past dozen years have been market rate. Not one market rate project has been built in Davis since 2006!”
Think about that.
I think Don Shor made some very important points yesterday in the comments. He said, “UCD needs to build more student housing. This is obviously a high priority.”
But for some that is the end of the story. As Jim Gray put it, the framework has become, “The University is not doing their fair share and the solution to meeting Davis’ housing needs should focus on campus. We wouldn’t have a housing problem if the campus weren’t growing and if the students would just live on campus.”
But, as Jim Gray stated, “That is the current refrain that I don’t believe is supported by the facts.”
Don Shor, who has long been an advocate for student housing, states, “More rental housing is also needed in the city. We haven’t added to the rental stock for quite a while.”
He continues, “Even if they go to 100/50, which I consider unlikely, we would still need some more apartments. This is a matter of some urgency for young adults who are trying to rent in the current constricted marketplace.”
Finally he adds, “I support your efforts to get UCD to increase their housing supply. Where you and I disagree is in your opposition to private rental housing projects.”
That is where I come down as well. The university is not the only partner here, and clearly the city of Davis is not doing its share.
Don Shor also raises another important point here that gets lost.
Jim Gray provides important information on the city’s affordable housing program. He notes, “The City of Davis has encouraged and stimulated, primarily through their policies which obtained land dedications and various exactions associated with earlier developments, 407 units and 747 bedrooms of affordable housing for 34% of total new apartment construction.”
As Don Shor points out, “The city’s Affordable Housing policies don’t really lead to much affordable housing, and probably impede the development of market-rate rental housing. So they are counterproductive.”
Part of the problem is that not much housing is being built at all in the city, therefore the number of affordable units is quite low as well. But this is something to think about.
So what does all of this mean?
The view of many is that UC Davis “is driving the need for student housing.” It struck me this week that the comment was a bit tautological – without a university, Davis would have little need for student housing, so of course the university is driving the need for student housing.
In previous columns, I have expressed a little discomfort with the idea that UC Davis should reduce its enrollment growth until it can figure out how to address the needs of its students. After all, the mission of the university is to provide an education for the future of our community and our nation.
And, as a community that greatly benefits from the university and in general supports the mission, I think we have our own obligations to provide for housing as the university is not meeting it.
I don’t see this as a zero-sum game, as one poster put it. I think the university needs to provide more housing, but, like Don Shor, I don’t think it is realistic to expect that they’ll get to 100-50. Getting to 90-40 would be a vast improvement.
Either way, Don Shor is spot on when he notes that, even if UC Davis houses 100 percent of its future growth, we still need more housing in Davis. The numbers do not lie, Davis hasn’t provided enough in the way of rental housing for students over the last decade.
Davis may not be doing “nothing” with regards to new housing – there are a host of small projects that have been approved and will be built, but the lack of new apartments is a huge problem. Not only does it reduce the vacancy rate and increase the vulnerability of students to predatory landlords, but it creates a market force that eats up available single-family homes and therefore reduces the ability of families to live in Davis.
I don’t support massive new growth in Davis, but I think the council’s view of their responsibility for new housing is correct.
The city supports: “City to continue to pursue consideration of all infill and apartment housing proposals within the City (with emphasis on student oriented housing proposals within 2 miles of campus in order to facilitate ease of access).”
That seems reasonable and can be achieved without stark changes to the character of this community.
—David M. Greenwald reporting