Tonight if you are listening to the discussion, you will hear horror stories that are occurring within our own community. Students living in their cars because they can neither afford housing in town nor is there sufficient room. Students who are packed six to a room, sleeping on the floor or “couch surfing.”
Substandard living conditions caused by negligent and absentee landlords and a seller’s market. Students are already looking for next year’s housing and some are not finding any.
There is a common denominator here – these problems are due to a tight rental market that remains at roughly 0.4 percent vacancy. That means there only a few handfuls of vacant rooms at any one time – and many of them are either too expensive or in poor condition. Students are ending up on or near the streets and many are exploited by predatory practices.
There is also a common denominator for those who are opposing projects like Nishi – most of the people opposing the projects own their own homes, they purchased homes in Davis when the cost of housing was less than $100,000 for a reasonable home, and they don’t have to worry about where they are going to live next year or how they are going to pay for it.
Normally, we would say that one housing project is not going to solve all the problems. But Nishi with 2200 beds, coupled with Sterling and Lincoln40 and combined with the 8500 on-campus beds promised by the chancellor over the next decade, has the real possibility of adding 13,000 new beds which will for the time being end the housing crisis and push us close to the 5 percent vacancy rate goal that the city has established.
Meet Nishi 2.0, now referred to as Nishi: Student Living Next to Campus.
Of course, not everyone believes that this project is “ready for prime time.” But I would argue that most of the calls for Nishi not being ready for prime time have been made by people who did not support the original Nishi project and will not support the next Nishi project, regardless of what it looks like.
If you really believe that Nishi is not ready for prime time, there is a mechanism to deal with it – vote no.
However, we believe that 50 students or more will show up to argue for why you should vote yes. The question is will you ignore their calls and insist that the campus should solve the problems.
When Chancellor Gary May announced that UC Davis would be adding more on-campus housing, he acknowledged that they cannot solve the housing crisis alone.
He said, “While we are planning the most ambitious student housing construction campaign in campus history, housing market changes cannot be resolved by UC Davis alone.”
As Aaron Latta pointed out in a comment, “I agree that the university should build more but to describe asking the university for more housing as a viable third option to our crisis is not sound. As of right now there is very little guarantee that meeting with university officials will result in greater on campus housing.”
We always hear the question: what’s the rush? The truth is, that is often the case. Even with a prolonged planning process, people in 2016 were asking what’s the rush, arguing to delay putting the project on the ballot until November, etc.
That’s the nature of projects. But it is also the nature of anything. When we hold an event, I also feel like if I only had one more week, I’d be in better shape. When I went to school, I always thought, gee if I had just one more week to study or one more day, one more week for that presentation… But the reality is that most of the time, one more week will only mean you delay a little longer before getting started in earnest and the extra time would not prove nearly as beneficial as you think.
We are never ready for prime time, we can always theoretically benefit from additional time, but it comes time to call the question.
With Nishi, the truth is we have had more evaluation of this project than any other. We know the site. We know its strengths. We know its weaknesses. This is not a new site. It is really not a new project.
We have a better sense for this project now than we did at this time two years ago. There were major weaknesses two years ago in terms of road impacts and lack of affordable housing that have been fixed. We have a better sense of the air quality situation. And we have done what can be done to mitigate those concerns.
We have commitment from UC Davis on the university access. The council will be quite familiar with the need for assurances from the developer. I really don’t see what we gain from delay. I really don’t.
And of course it is easy for people who have stable roofs over their heads to see nothing to lose by delay, while those who are not housing secure see the current situation as an urgent emergency.
In the end, the voters have the choice. If the project is not ready for prime time, you have the right to vote no. But I believe it is time to call the question. Our students deserve an answer from the community as to whether they will have enough housing in the near future, or whether they will have to continue to live in their cars and on the couches of their friends’ houses.
As you go to bed late tonight in your housing security, it might help for you to keep in mind that not everyone in this community is as housing secure as you.
—David M. Greenwald reporting