Last week, Davis got at least a little clarity on one portion of the housing situation – the university pulled a housing proposal from the Russell Fields in their Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), but left intact their 90/40 plan over the objections of council and many residents.
By 90/40, we mean that the university will house 90 percent of new students and 40 percent of all students. The council had pushed for 100/50 (all new students and half of all students to live on campus).
In effect that means that the city will have to find housing for roughly 700 additional students over the next decade, plus faculty and staff, not to mention the current crunch that has the vacancy rate at 0.2 percent.
Council has prioritized housing, particularly housing within two miles of campus at infill sites.
We have already seen proposals pop up for student housing at Lincoln40 and Sterling, which critics argue are effectively off-campus dorms.
I got a detailed email highlighting some of the structural problems with how Sterling is being housed – based on that, I would suggest the council look at that proposal carefully to see if it is a good idea to structure the housing in that way. There are also height, density, and traffic concerns that the council should look into as well.
But, given the shortage of housing, the limitations of Measure R, and the problems of infill – council is clearly going to need to get creative and go outside the box.
In particular, as we are likely to see jobs for young professionals generated by Area 52 and the University Research Park, the council has talked about the need for workforce housing. Of course, mixed-use proposals or ideas proved to be divisive for the formerly proposed MRIC, so council is going to have to be mindful of that as well.
I saw an article posted on Medium this week that caught my eye, “I’m 31 and moving to an adult dorm.” (I link it here for the concept, but read the next two articles I link from).
A year ago, the Atlantic wrote about a new co-living space – “Dorms for Grownups.” Here residents have their own “microunits” which are built “around a shared living space for cooking, eating and hanging out.”
This is an expansion of the Coworking concept, which in this article is a combination of the live-work concept of a “dorm” or “Commonspace” which features “21 microunits, which each pack a tiny kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space into 300-square-feet.”
“The microunits surround shared common areas including a chef’s kitchen, a game room, and a TV room. Worried about the complicated social dynamics of so many Millennials in one living unit? Fear not, Evans and partner John Talarico are hiring a ‘social engineer’ who will facilitate group events and maintain harmony among roommates,” they explain.
This is different from a commune or co-op: “Millennials, Evans says, want the chance to be alone in their own bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, but they also want to be social and never lonely.”
In March, Fortune Magazine wrote, “Adult Dorms Could be the Future of City Living.” This article explains that the cost and scarcity of housing is problematic among young adults. For venture capitalists, “those rising prices could signal the rise of a completely different kind of housing: adult dorms.”
Fortune explains, “The setup involves multiple bedrooms clustered around a shared lounge and kitchen—and it sells itself on a sense a community.”
“The theory is that the high price of rent and stress of starting in a new city will drive young adults to coliving spaces, where rooms are fully furnished, amenities are included, and communal spaces full of fellow new grads,” the article explains.
“Prices start from $1,500 a month at Common. WeWork, which is currently testing its coliving program and has not opened it to the public, previously estimated building 70 coliving locations with over 30,000 residents by 2018,” Fortune continues. “For venture capitalists, the opportunity is doubly exciting since the housing practice would theoretically grow exponentially, showing start-up like profit, unlike investing in real estate which generally reaps in moderate returns.”
Could this represent a low-profile answer for workforce housing in the Davis community? Older residents will probably scoff at the notion, but it is at least something to start thinking about.
—David M. Greenwald reporting