Yesterday’s commentary, responding to a letter talking about the need for housing that works for families, got me thinking for awhile on the need for housing for families in Davis. I can speak from personal experience here, because I am that family that needs affordable places to live in Davis if we are going to be able to stay here.
The letter argues that the projects, which they include as Lincoln40, Plaza 2555 (across from Playfields in South Davis) and Nishi, would be “predominately 4- and 5- bedroom enormous apartment suites.”
They write: “Since these mega-dorms use a rent-by-the-bed format targeting students, this is not a design that works for families and local workers.”
Instead they argue: “These 3 new multi-family projects in the City need to be inclusively designed with 1,2, and 3- bedroom traditional apartments so that anyone can rent them, families, or workers, or students. I urge Council to direct City Staff to clarify that new multi-family projects need to be predominately, if not entirely 1,2, and 3- bedroom traditional apartments offering market rental housing for all.”
As I noted yesterday, I agree with the comment that the dorm format is not designed for families. But why wouldn’t the format work for local workers? Non-college students are looking for shared housing. Especially if they are young and not married.
I do agree that these projects are not conducive for families.
As I expressed yesterday, I don’t necessarily view this as a problem. Right now the shortfall of housing is forcing students into single-family homes which are rented, and has choked families out
of the market. By providing housing for students, the overall rental vacancy rate will be increased and therefore housing will be more available to families attempting to move into town.
But today I want to go further than this. I do not generally personalize politics in Davis, but I do find it ironic that many of the people making these arguments are folks who have owned homes in Davis for years. Many of them either have no kids or their kids are grown. In other words, the exercise is largely one that is academic.
I find it interesting that, therefore, people who own homes and have no families would be putting forth the argument that we should oppose Lincoln40 because it does not provide housing for workers and people with families.
On the other hand, I have a family with three kids and, as many people know, we rent. Five years ago we were fortunate to be able to move from an apartment in West Davis to a rental home in South Davis. We live in a neighborhood. We are surrounded by families with children and, as many of my friends were complaining about lack of trick-or-treaters, we had many.
I have been largely supportive of student housing. Twenty years ago, I came here as a graduate student and ended up staying. I largely view the student housing projects as a good thing for families like mine because it eliminates the competition for single-family homes and reduces the pressure for students to pile ten to a home in order to find a place to live that they can afford.
But here is the bottom line – when I was in my 20s, I would have loved to have lived next to campus. For most of my stay as a student, I lived in West Davis and either had to drive three miles or bike it. By the time you factor in walking to a parking space, either way you were looking at about a 15-minute commute home.
However, at this point in my life, I would not want to move my family into an apartment complex. I would not want to live next to campus in apartments.
What I want is to have housing, whether it is affordable rental housing or for-sale housing, that is in a neighborhood where we have a yard, other kids around, and a community of people. There are a lot of people who of course have different tastes, who like a more urban lifestyle, but I moved to Davis because I like the atmosphere – the college town, the suburban feel, the neighborhoods, the parks, the greenbelts. That is what I’m looking for.
I think a lot of people who have not been students for a long time, not been young working adults for a long time, and don’t have families make a lot of assumptions about what people want.
At this stage in my life, I am either going to end up renting a house in Davis or buying a house in Woodland. Frankly, I would love to stay in Davis – the community is great and the schools have done wonders for our kids. But, increasingly, that seems unlikely as this community has become unaffordable for working families like my own.
I don’t want to see Davis vastly change. I still support Measure R. I still oppose most peripheral development on the outskirts of town. But somehow, some way, we have to find a way to provide housing for the people who attend school here, who work here, and who live here now but cannot stay much longer in their current location.
Lincoln40 could be a very nice place for college students to live, but that is not what I need for my family. But creating sufficient housing at Lincoln40, and other locations in town, could free up the single-family homes for me and my family to move into.
If you own your home, you are not speaking for my family and me when you argue that there needs to be family housing at some of these apartment complexes.
—David M. Greenwald reporting