By Don Gibson and Aaron Latta
The housing crisis has hit a critical point. Everyone constantly quotes a 0.2-percent vacancy rate, but what does this actually mean?
It means that in 2017, 8,122 apartment units were surveyed as part for the annual UC Davis BAE Vacancy Survey. Of those 8,122 apartment units, only 13 were available. 13. It means we saw rent increase more than 7 percent last year. It means housing has become the No. 1 issue affecting quality of life for our community members.
It means every day that passes by, more members of our community struggle to find housing. They are faced with difficult choices: dropping out of school, finding somewhere else to start a family, or resorting to extreme housing options like sleeping in their cars. The current lack of housing is the driving factor behind these rent hikes and increasing that supply will help students and families alike.
Student Housing at Nishi was approved by the City Council with a rare affordable-housing program that students can qualify for. Extremely low-income students will be able to qualify for housing as low as around $400 a month. This is a precedent setting program that can act as a litmus test for all housing projects going forward.
If this project fails, future developers will see this program as a fruitless endeavor. Student-housing projects like Tercero, with triple occupancy units costing $950 a month, will remain the norm. Nishi can systematically change the way our city views affordable housing.
Apart from the affordable-housing elements, only one-third of all residents would have a car. By putting students at this location, we are eliminating student commuters. The 2,200 tenants at this site are 2,200 less potential commuters coming from Woodland and Sacramento. Nishi reduces the need for students to use cars, taking thousands of cars out of our congested downtown. The Nishi project also exceeds the Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan and gets students out of cars and onto bikes, increasing bike mode share.
Additionally, Nishi will do its part in taking pressure off of our neighborhoods and relieve the current minidorm epidemic. Bay Area investors are buying the cheapest housing stock in town and converting them into cash cows. Cramming 10-plus students in two- and three-bedroom homes has become an easy way for these out-of-town investors to make ridiculous profits while affecting the quality of life of both the occupants as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. Nishi puts students right next to campus and eases pressure on limited housing stock.
Kevin R is a second-year student at UC Davis and has been forced to commute due to the lack of housing available in town: “Last week I have spent $75 on gas. I am exactly the kind of student you want living at Nishi and stop commuting half an hour every single day just to get to school.” Kevin has also noticed a large population of students even less fortunate than himself: “Every day I park next to 1-3 people sleeping in their car. Just down by the railroad tracks, there is a small community of homeless students who sleep next to the tracks at night and go to school during the day.”
Another unfortunate story is Dominic A. As a former transfer student, he struggled financially so he was forced to get a retail job working nights. Soon after, he realized one job was not enough and had to get a second job. He was renting a room for $525 a month which is reasonable. However, when given the opportunity to renew his lease, the rent was increasing by $200 for his room alone.
And that was the price for renewal. New tenants would have had an even more expensive rate. Unable to pay the new rate and unable to find a new apartment within his affordability range, he was forced into homelessness. Luckily, he was able to find friends who let him couch-surf until he found a new home, but now lives in a single-family home with seven other people. He sleeps in the living room. People like Dominic are exactly why we need the extremely low income affordable housing at Student Housing at Nishi. It is designed for students with parents who cannot help them pay their tuition or their rent.
Voting against Student Housing at Nishi can only contribute to the current problem with homeless students; it can only add more commuters coming into town; create more minidorms and contribute to the profits of out-of-town landlords; take housing away from other members of our community.
Without this project, the housing crisis can only be exacerbated. We can no longer remain neutral on housing anymore as the status quo is the No. 1 issue affecting the quality of life of our community members in this town. Please take a stand and vote Yes on Measure J this June.
— Don Gibson is the Chair of the ASUCD/GSA Joint Housing Task Force and Aaron Latta is the Chair of the Davis Housing Brigade