I read Sean Raycraft’s Thursday guest column with great interest. He writes, “Who is most hurt by the Davis housing crisis? As far as I can tell, it’s the most vulnerable. The unhoused, the working poor, and students.”
He added, “Over the last few months, I have been collecting stories, listening to friends, coworkers and community members about the housing crisis in Davis.”
Then on Thursday night I listened at home to the Davis School Board meeting. It was a small number of people who actually spoke, but their stories were horrifying. A bright young teacher is getting married early so she can get on her fiance’s health care plan from the Sacramento School District. Another single mother with a 12-year-old who has had to take an outside health care plan with a $6000 deductible because it’s the only plan she can afford on her salary.
Substitute teachers making $90 a day and just under $3000 for the first nearly two months of the school year while administrators are getting over $100 an hour. And a bright young teacher who is getting a master’s at home as he teaches a full day and gets $1000 a month from his parents just to make ends meet.
These are not the working poor that Sean Raycraft was necessarily talking about – these are teachers who are educating our kids and many of them cannot afford to stay and do not believe the district values them.
The story of the teacher having to rent out the second room of her two-bedroom rental duplex is heart wrenching. She can’t even afford the rent on the full unit and she has to stay in a room with her 12-year-old daughter. The other teacher is living in a one bedroom with a young child and paying $1050 a month, half his take home pay.
Reading Sean Raycraft’s piece side by side with the stories from teachers and parents this week is an eye-opening experience.
On the district’s end, it is clear that the district is going to have to figure out a way to get more competitive salaries or they will lose all of the best and brightest teachers. It is disheartening to hear the Superintendent’s response disputing whether Davis has a teacher shortage, because what is very clear is that they will have a crisis very soon if something does not change.
But part of the biggest problem is the mismatch between the cost of living in Davis and the compensation offered by DJUSD. It is literally forcing teachers who are willing to stay at DJUSD to live elsewhere because even people making far more than them can’t afford to live here either.
When I met with Blair Howard last month he noted that, while they qualified to live at Grande, they could not afford to actually live there because the cost was too high a percentage of his take home pay.
What is striking to me is that Davis could be doing a lot more to help the school district in this respect than they are. And not just the school district, but really all competitive industries. I was recently at a meeting where a consultant shared the fact that they surveyed a number of Davis businesses with medium to large numbers of employees.
Not surprisingly, the vast majority of employees do not live in Davis. Most of them when surveyed indicated they would like to live in Davis, but either cannot afford to or there is no housing available.
When the Vanguard looked at travel data, we found that there is a huge mismatch between housing and jobs in Davis. The result is a huge number of people who live in Davis, work outside of Davis. About 16,000 people who live in Davis leave the city and commute elsewhere. Meanwhile, a huge amount of people who work in Davis, about 21,000 of the 28,000 jobs in the city or at UC Davis, are occupied by people who live outside of the area.
That by itself has impacts. It clogs our roads with commuting traffic and it increases our carbon footprint.
In his piece Sean Raycraft never mentioned rent control. As we have mentioned, the issue of rent control could become a big issue in Davis in 2018. That is an issue that Lucas Frerichs raised on Wednesday, and at least one candidate for city council could make it a centerpiece of a 2018 campaign.
“We should consider rent control,” Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said. “I don’t know if the council is going to act on that, but there is definitely a drumbeat in the community for rent control.”
But rent control will only go so far. It will not deal with the issue of supply which seems to be, along with affordability, one of the biggest drivers of the current crisis.
What is clear to me is that we have a rather large problem and it extends beyond affordability of Davis to the working poor, it shows that even professional teachers are having a hard time making ends meet. DJUSD is going to have to address the issue on their end, but even if DJUSD does increase the pay and make it more equitable compared to other districts – we still have a big problem.
The problem is this: if teachers have to commute from Sacramento to work in Davis, why would they want to work in Davis? It is one thing to commute several hours a week to a well-paying job. It is another thing to commute several hours a week to a job that doesn’t pay that well and you can probably get a comparable paying job elsewhere.
You spend all day teaching, then you have to drive home for a half hour in rush hour traffic, eat, and then spend your evening grading papers and prepping for the next day. Adding the commute to all of that is probably something that will prevent teachers from remaining for the long term at their position.
Again, this issue extends beyond just teachers to the broader community and the shortage of affordable living options.
As Sean Raycraft pointed out in a comment: “I’m curious to hear what solutions to the housing crisis others have. Because while the issue goes unaddressed, people are suffering. People are becoming homeless. PEOPLE WITH TWO JOBS ARE NOW HOMELESS! I’m not advocating for any one housing policy, but … we *have* to do something.”
The question is what the community is willing to do – what we are doing right now is not working. The question is whether the residents of Davis are willing to try to find something that will work better.
—David M. Greenwald reporting