Earlier this week, the Vanguard asked the city to come up with a number – how many rental units do we need in the city? Where should they be built? When should they be constructed?
Last night at the Planning Commission meeting, a developer made the case that Davis needs housing. “We’re here because there is a housing crisis in Davis,” the applicant said.
According to the 2016 vacancy report prepared by UC Davis Student Housing Department, there is a 0.2 percent apartment vacancy rate. As the applicant put it, they surveyed approximately 9969 units, accounting for 83 percent of the total multifamily housing stock in the Davis community, and “that mean that less than 30 units were vacant and available to renters.”
“That just doesn’t happen,” he said. “A healthy market is where there is approximately 5 percent vacancy. I always tell people if you have more occupancy than 90 percent, you’re not charging enough. Well, in Davis the current landlords have been continuing to charge people but there is such a pent up demand because there has been no purposeful market rate housing in Davis for years while everything else continues to grow.”
According to the city’s 2016 residential report, of the 266 residential permits issued, “ZERO were issued for market-rate/student apartments.
“While the city is meeting the targets for all residential categories, they are not meeting targets for market rate/student apartments.” They added, “The majority of the apartments developed over the last several years have been dedicated affordable units.”
People continue to want to put this on the university, and the university plays a role in this.
In their December letter, the council wrote that “the City requests that UC Davis provide for a minimum of 100 percent of the projected enrollment of all new incoming students starting with the 2017 academic year and at least 50 percent of total UC Davis campus student population in the LRDP.”
The city further requested that UC Davis “develop an accompanying construction and financing implementation strategy to ensure the delivery of these units and facilities in a timely manner.”
At the same time, the council clearly committed “to provide for the full and diverse breadth of housing needs in our community” including “working with the property owner and UC Davis to determine the future possibilities for the Nishi site.”
They wrote, “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).”
The math is rather simple. UC Davis is likely to continue to grow, there is only a 0.2 percent apartment vacancy in the city – and, therefore, those students are going to need to find a place to live.
The university has committed to housing 90 percent of those new students on campus, and increasing the total on-campus population to 40 percent of all students. Both activists and the city council recognize that this will not accommodate current and future need.
One of the questions, given the numbers, is whether the city should focus on a student-oriented housing – when in fact, as the presentation showed, there has been no student-oriented housing in recent years in Davis.
As one commenter argued, “There is a significant effort to ‘justify’ large-scale, student-oriented housing in less-than-ideal locations. This type of design is unprecedented, in Davis.” They followed up, “Are there any other apartment complexes with 4-5 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom?”
They added, “Some are not even willing to wait until the LRDP process has been completed, to provide an opportunity to ensure that such housing is located in the best possible place (on campus).”
There are several critical points that should be addressed here.
First, there is really nothing unprecedented in the design of Sterling.
The 2016 Apartment Vacancy and Rental Rate Survey had a section that specifically discussed what is known as “bed leases.”
They write, “Of the 9,058 market rate apartment units reported by survey respondents, only 11 percent, around 950 units in total, were reportedly rented under bed lease arrangements.”
They continue, “On average, bed-leased units typically contain one bed per bedroom; although some complexes allow multiple beds per bedroom. Sixty-three percent of the leased beds reported by respondents were located in four-bedroom units, while 24 percent were in three-bedroom units and 12 percent were in two-bedroom units.”
So the answer is yes – there are other apartments that utilize bed leases and, in fact, there are nearly 600 bed leases in four-bedroom apartments in the city. There is nothing unprecedented about this.
It is true, as Don Shor put it yesterday, “Families are unlikely to live in Sterling, any more than they are likely to live in the many dozens of other apartment complexes in Davis that were designed primarily for students.”
The reality is that there was no student-oriented housing last year or even the last dozen years in the city, and therefore it is not unreasonable to want to construct market-rate student housing when the pent-up demand is so severe.
The question comes up – should we wait for the LRDP process to be completed?
The question I have is why? Right now the university is committed to 90/40. The city is still asking for 100/50. But the math suggests even 100/50 still means we need some housing in Davis.
How much housing do we need? That is an important question and one reason why I would like the city to study our rental housing needs and come up with a number based on a number of variables. In the meantime, the city has a few apartment complexes to consider that will at least meet the immediate pent-up market demands for student housing.
—David M. Greenwald reporting