I was reading a lengthy Facebook post by a friend of mine. He overheard people, in this case workers, but they could just as easily be students too, talking about the fact that they are happy about their lease for next year.
Why? “My rent is only going up 60 dollars a month.” Others: “My rent is going up 100 dollars a month!” Another said “200!”
As my friend put it: “I got to thinking about what that actually means. Folks are going to be paying more next year, a lot more, for the exact same living situation. Are they getting more housing or services for that money? No, they aren’t. Will their wages go up by $100 a month?”
He added, “Landlords are raising their rents because they can. Where is all that extra money going? Right into the pockets of the people who have everything already.”
It is really no different than the letter from the lady at another apartment complex which is raising the rent by $280 – not because their costs are going up, but because they know even if the current residents end up leaving, the 0.4 percent vacancy rate means there will be plenty more lined up to take their spot.
My friend writes: “Here is what gives me hope. The students are fed up with it all. They are organizing, they are pushing back against the status quo of ever increasing rents, increasing tuition,
the lack of decent housing and everything else.”
I think most people in this community now agree that we have a student housing crisis. There is not a consensus, though, on how to handle it. Some have pushed for the university to add more housing – a move that the Vanguard fully supports. Some have pushed for the city to add more housing – also a move that the Vanguard fully supports.
Some believe that by adding student-oriented housing it can free up single-family homes for families. Others want to see more of a mix of new housing options – although the Vanguard has shown that the four most recent housing proposals actually add a vast majority of housing that is two- and three-bedroom apartments with only around a quarter being four- and five-bedroom apartments.
The Vanguard has also demonstrated that the cost of housing on campus is much higher than it is off campus. According to one set of data, UC Davis is the second most expensive UC to live on campus, at an average of $16,136 per year (with the rate even higher for a single occupancy room) while Davis is the second least expensive community to live in, with the average cost at just under $10,000 per room.
From the Vanguard’s perspective, that data suggests that one reason UC Davis has traditionally had a low on-campus housing rate is that they have not needed to add as much housing on campus. Housing off campus has traditionally been available and relatively inexpensive compared to other schools.
That means that, traditionally, students could find housing for much cheaper off campus, where they not only paid less in base rent, but faced more flexibility in the ability to split that rent as well as food costs.
Some have argued “the City should not be enabling UCD to continue in their negligence to provide the on-campus student housing needed for its own growth.” They add that “there is no excuse why UCD cannot provide 50% on-campus housing like UC Irvine, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, and UC Merced, particularly since UCD is the largest UC with over 5,300 acres.”
Again, one reason why UC Davis has offered less in the way of housing on campus is the combination of cost and need. That has freed up UC Davis to focus on other things.
But clearly, given changes in Davis’ growth policies since 2000, UC Davis is going to need to re-think its approach to on-campus housing.
Data provided by some of the commenters in Monday’s article is rather telling. In 1970, there were 23,488 people living in Davis and 12,941 students at UC Davis.
There are two key stats that the chart tracks. One is the population increase of the city of Davis versus UC Davis. And the second is the enrollment as a percentage of the population.
The latter number trended downward from 1970 to 2000, going from a high of 55 percent in 1970 to a low of 42 percent in 2000. Likewise, the population increase of the city outstripped that of the university until 2010.
What that means is that until Measure J in 2000, UC Davis enrollment growth was not driving the city’s growth needs. Rather, Davis and UC Davis were growing in tandem. In fact, Davis was growing at the same rate or faster.
UC Davis actually grew the least from 1990 to 2000, at only 8 percent – whereas from 1980 to 1990 it grew at 27 percent and from 2000 to 2010 it grew at 21 percent. You have to be a little careful because it is only a seven-year period, but from 2011 to 2017, UC Davis grew by 16 percent.
What that tells you is that UC Davis since 2000 has grown at about its historic rate, except for the during the 1990s when it essentially stopped growing.
What has changed then is not UC Davis policies for enrollment growth, but rather the city’s policies for growth that have slowed if not stopped since 2000. In 2000, the city population was 60,308. In 2016, it was 68,314.
For the first time, UC Davis had more growth, at 10,000 over the 17-year period, than Davis did at 8000.
Those arguing that the city is enabling UC Davis to continue in its negligence are clearly misreading past and current data on housing and growth. What has changed is not UC Davis policies, but rather city of Davis policies.
Clearly the university is going to need to change – and change they are. Yes, it is not as rapidly as some like it. UC Davis is proposing to go from 29 percent on-campus housing to 46 percent. You can talk all you want about what other campus are doing, but that represents a nearly 60 percent increase in the percentage of on-campus housing over just a 10-year period.
But, as we have pointed out, unless UC Davis can figure out a way to make housing more affordable for students on campus, simply providing on-campus housing only helps so much. This isn’t just a UC Davis problem as some have let on – it is a systemwide problem and indeed a higher education problem.
It is, however, a start.
—David M. Greenwald reporting