By M E Gladis
Yolo County Progressives would like to express our concerns about the lease by bed arrangement used at the Lincoln 40 development that you will soon be voting on. Leasing by the bed bars students from doing the one thing that makes housing affordable for them in Davis – sharing bedrooms and splitting the rent – and it is reducing the number of beds overall in our town.
Before addressing Lincoln 40, we must address the issue of ‘bed leases, ‘where landlords rent out a single bed to a tenant using an independent lease agreement instead of renting a whole apartment unit to multiple tenants using a single lease. According to the 2017 BAE UC Davis Apartment Vacancy and Rental Rate Survey Report, landlords in Davis are switching over bed leases at an increasing rate, with 13.12% of units now under this type of rental agreement – up from 10.49% in 2016. For the reasons outlined below, we believe that this trend is harmful to students and families alike in our town. First, bed leases artiﬁcially cap the number of beds, or tenants, in each unit. When students sign a single lease for an entire apartment unit, they are free to double or even triple up in their bedrooms, meaning they can live in high density. According to the 2017 BAE Report, units with bed leases, on the other hand, have a “relatively low incidence of double-occupancy.” Calculated together, if all the bed leased units allowed for double-occupancy in their bedrooms, there would currently be an additional 3,318 beds in Davis. Instead, with students and families struggling to ﬁnd housing, we are going backward. Landlords who see they can make higher proﬁts while housing fewer people are switching from leasing entire apartment units to leasing by the bed, thereby reducing the overall number of beds available in Davis.
Second, the actual motive for landlords to switch to bed leases is, of course, proﬁt. According to the 2017 BAE Report, landlords charge an average of $1,147, $898, and $826 per bed in two, three, and four bedroom apartments respectively. It should be noted that this is already unaffordable for vast amounts of students and their families back home. Multiplied out, this nets landlords $2294, $2694, and $3304 for two, three, and four bedroom apartments respectively. These totals are higher than apartments that rent whole apartment units with a single lease: $1160, $2270, and $2858. And because students can double or triple up in each bedroom with whole unit leases, they pay three times less than their bed lease counterparts.
Finally, that brings us around to Lincoln40, which hopes to continue the use of bed leases. When the issue of housing in Davis has circled around low vacancy rates, high rents, with a limited amount of land to build on, we cannot understand why Davis’s City Council has so far endorsed Lincoln40. We, too, are concerned with the low vacancy rates in Davis and the hardships that students, including those in our group, are currently going through. But after having already approved Sterling Apartments, who will be leasing beds, we fear that also approving Lincoln40 will set a bad precedent, telling landlords that our City Council will do nothing to reverse the trend of bed leases. Already, current landlords are switching their units to bed leases so they can make more proﬁts by housing fewer people. We do not believe that Davis can rely on market forces and build itself out of this mess on its own. Sacramento has a similarly low vacancy rate problem with families struggling to ﬁnd a place to live, let alone an affordable one. On the other side, workers in the Bay Area look to Davis as a town with a more acceptable commute versus one further east. There members of our community who have been pushed out of Davis but long to return. And to top it all off, Wall Street has been buying up homes and inﬂating rents causing landlords all around them to do the same (The Intercept ).Clearly, then, if City Council wants to protect the students and residents of Davis, it must be able to act boldly. Yes, increase the number of beds in Davis, but do it through high-density housing that students will be able to afford by doubling up in their bedrooms. Enact rent control on the properties it is currently lawful to do so. Enact and enforce tenants ‘rights and protect members of our community from unsafe housing and unresponsive landlords. Giving in to the demands of HighBridge Properties and their high-proﬁt designs for Lincoln40 is not going to save Davis. It’s time Davis’s City Council vote no on Lincoln40 untilthey are willing to come forward with a plan that won’t put proﬁt beforepeople.If you agree and would like to send Davis City Council an email, pleasego to YoloCountyProgressives.org and ﬁll out the petition. At the end of this article “Here” is what you click on.
M E Gladis is Chair of Yolo County Progressives (YCP)