Davis Housing Crisis and the International Community, Part 1

Interview of Jessica Chin Foo, entrepreneur, co-founder of Garba Wine Company LLC and of Gauguine Wines, International Sales Marketing Director at Hinerava.

By Nathalie Mvondo

I love living in Davis. Of all the places I lived in since moving to the United States, Davis was the first that made feel at home, while giving me the community experience that is essential to my lifestyle. That said, there is always room for improvement, there are challenges as in other cities, and to be honest it neither was easy to find a place to live, and it was even harder to acclimate. The first four months were brutal, but that’s a story for another time.

I’m excited about the new housing developments, and the community involvement in the process. I’ve followed the housing debates closely, and I’ve been encouraged by the students participation. That said, I think that one element that is often missing from the conversation is the housing experience of the international students, and the obstacles they are up against when moving to our college town. This matters, precisely because Davis is a college town, and as such draws an eclectic group of students and academicians of all backgrounds. If you know any international scholars, ask them about their housing experience, and you will likely to get the same answers every time.

One tool that is very helpful to students, when looking for a place to live in Davis, is the Facebook group Apt/Rooms for Rent for our International Davis Community. The group was created by Polynesian French American Jessica Chin Foo, a long time active member of the Davis community, who co-founded Garba Wine Company LLC (you might be familiar with Putah Creek Winery), as well as Gauguine Wines, and who currently serves as the International Sales Director of the Tahitian luxury jewelry line Hinerava. I reached out to her with a few questions regarding the Davis housing crisis. I warmly thank Jessica for her time, and for sharing her thoughts with us.

Nathalie Mvondo (NM): Would you say it’s difficult for International Students to find housing in Davis? If yes, why do you think?

Jessica Chin Foo: Yes, it is a challenge to find housing when you are not located in the area and do not have any records to provide traditional housing rentals. Housing in Davis is also expensive for the average international student.

NM: What prompted you to start the group (Housing for our International Community in Davis — I don’t remember the year it was created, guessing 2013…)?

Jessica: Being an active member of the international community, I was often solicited for my assistance in helping friends’ acquaintance & relatives to find short term leasing. I was being a bridge for those I knew, and realized there could be a lot more people who would need help. With a network of over 1000 friends in the area on Facebook, I figured a group could address the need of those I knew but also would expand itself naturally. Now there are over 1800 members in the group, and I get request everyday for new members from all over the globe, Brazil, Chile, Spain, France, south Korea, china, India…

NM: What do you think could be a solution to the current housing crisis, in regards to the International community?

Jessica: Infrastructures! More students are getting enrolled in UC Davis, and so we need more housing to address that growth. For international students, there needs to be flexibility in their rental application, and provide more short term leasing. In regards to the community, we can encourage international emptynesters living in Davis to rent one of their room once in while.

Nathalie Mvondo is a local writer, founder, and community organizer with a passion for cultural diversity and cooking. She writes about various topics on her blog, MultiCulturalism Rocks!, shares multicultural and multilingual books in various venues via her pop-up store, founded MultiCultural Press Inc – a multilingual story app for kids and families, in development -, and with friends co-founded the Davis Network for Africa (DNA) – a networking platform for the African Diaspora and friends of Africa.  She is a board member of the Davis Vanguard.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Alan Miller

    I have had several international students for house-mates (Algeria, China, Malawi), including now, as have several friends.  One of the issues for first-time international renters is the Craigslist scams.  It can be a challenge for the inexperienced with a room to get past all the scams, which hurts those trying to get rooms.  Also, many may be reluctant to rent to people they haven’t met in person.  If a system could be set up to match international students and hosts and verify legitimacy, that would be most helpful to all. 

    And I’ll confirm international students are often looking for one-quarter rental or other odd time needs, very difficult to accommodate in Davis’ sea of year-long leases, and for those renting, who wants to have to find a new person in three months?

    1. Howard P

      Going back 70 plus years, there was a viable mechanism… people with unused rooms in their homes taking in ‘boarders’ (still coming out of the Depression)… my grandparents did that… and Dad got to know ‘roommates’ (housemates) from different parts of the US, and India.. they became friends… Dad learned to play cricket.

      Don’t hear much about the concept of ‘boarders’ these days… might be a viable answer, particularly for the short-term international students…

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