Commentary: Rental Housing Crisis Not Just in Davis, but Bad in Davis Nonetheless

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A reader pointed us to an interesting article from the September 5, 1957, Davis Enterprise talking about the rental housing crisis which was so bad that the UCD Dean appealed to Davis residents to help with student rentals.

The article reports, “Davis and neighboring communities face the problem of housing nearly 100 more students this fall off the campus, University of California officials said today.”

Dean Lysle Leach said, “Rooms and apartments now listed with the housing office on the campus are not sufficient to meet this need.”  The paper reports that he “appealed to Davis home owners to make available every room that can be rented to a student.”

“With all space for men on the campus filled,” Dean Leach said, “there still are nearly 100 additional undergraduate men in sight.  They will need off-campus rooms.”

Flash forward 60 years later and there is still not sufficient space on campus.

We have discussed the university’s LRDP (Long Range Development Plan) which will increase the on-campus share from 29 percent to 40 percent.  The city of Davis, Yolo County, ASUCD and the Vanguard have called on the university to go up to 50 percent of overall students on campus.  The university has not agreed to go there.

In the meantime, the housing crisis continues to grow in Davis, with a 0.2 percent vacancy rate.  The worse news is that the housing market may not be much better outside of Davis either.

This weekend, the Woodland paper noted, “The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates California is so behind that it needs as many as 100,000 more housing units a year — on top of what it typically constructs — just to stabilize prices.”

The overall housing shortage in California is about 1.5 million homes.

If we think of Woodland as a place where students could go live if there is insufficient housing in Davis, reading this article, think again.

The paper reports, “In Woodland, specifically, renters prefer to look outside the city — such as Davis and even Natomas — for something more affordable.”

Indeed, “The housing situation is so desperate in Woodland, the City Council is holding a special meeting on the matter toward the end of September.”

And of course Sacramento has its own housing crisis with a 7.4 percent increase in the cost of rents, third highest increase the nation and highest among major California cities.

As we have reported, there is a package of bills that include affordable housing provision and tools that would prod cities to add their share of housing.

“I think that many of my colleagues understand that individual decisions by city councils and boards of supervisors are having an extremely negative and detrimental impact on our region,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a former San Francisco supervisor who chairs the Assembly’s housing committee.

He added, “When you have so many decisions going the wrong way on proposed housing that meets all local laws and planning and zoning requirements we have to do something different.”

We have discussed SB 35.  SB 35 is opposed by the League of California Cities who argue it would “pre-empt local discretionary land use authority by making approvals of multifamily developments, that meet inadequate criteria, ‘ministerial’ actions, thus bypassing the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and public input.”

They also argue, “It dodges the reality that state and federal affordable housing funding have slowed to a trickle. More than $1 billion annually in affordable housing money has evaporated with the elimination of redevelopment agencies in 2011.

“This massive withdraw of resources has contributed to the current challenges, yet no significant source of ongoing affordable housing funding is on the horizon,” the organization argues.

But proponents argue that, while the state has been assessing housing needs for decades, “its lack of means to enforce them allows local officials to regard perpetual shortfalls with a shrug.”

“All cities in our state need to create housing if we are going to meaningfully address California’s housing shortage,” said Senator Scott Wiener. “We need to be producing 180,000 units of housing a year in California, but we are producing less than half that, which is inflicting real damage. Our housing shortage is harming our environment, economy, health, and quality of life.”

SB 35 would change the authority of RHNA (Regional Housing Need Allocation).  Under SB 35, “if cities aren’t on track to meet those goals, then approval of projects will be streamlined if they meet a set of objective criteria, including affordability, density, zoning, historic, and environmental standards, and if they meet rigorous standards for construction labor.”

Meanwhile, as Woodland has a city-level discussion on its housing crisis, the Vanguard will host a forum in late September (September 26, 6 to 8 pm at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen) on its housing crisis.

Already committed to that discussion are Councilmember Lucas Frerichs, Chamber President Jason Taormino and Greg Rowe – and the Vanguard has invited ASUCD President Josh Dalavai and UC Davis representative Matt Dulcich to participate in that discussion.

The first part of that discussion will focus on Downtown Parking and the Core Area Specific Plan on August 30, also at Sophia’s Thai Kitchen from 6 to 8, and will feature Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee, Josh Chapman of the Davis Downtown, Doby Fleeman from Davis ACE, and Rhonda Reed from the Old East Davis Neighborhood Association.

Both events are free and open to the public with a suggested donation voluntarily accepted at the door.

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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One thought on “Commentary: Rental Housing Crisis Not Just in Davis, but Bad in Davis Nonetheless”

  1. Howard P

    If you don’t remember the quonset huts, particularly where Davis Villas and the ‘Borders site’ is, that was used for student housing right after WWII (GI bill kicked in)… you’re a ‘newbie’… I remember them, but at that time they were either empty or used for storage/equipment (early 70’s).

    Maybe we need to re-think (on campus and off) what ‘housing’ is needed… does it need to be as ‘high scale’ as has been the norm for the last 25 years or so?  At least for interim?

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