UC Davis has agreed to increase its overall on-campus housing allotment from 28 percent currently to 48 percent. That comes to 9050 additional beds over the next decade, with 5200 of them to be built essentially right away and available for rent as soon as 2020 or 2021. While some have continued to push for UC Davis to go to 10,000 additional beds and get to 50 percent, it is important to evaluate where things currently stand.
With the voter ratification of Nishi, that is the approval of 2200 student beds. The council previously has approved Lincoln40 at 708 beds and Sterling at 540. Both Nishi and Lincoln40 are subject to litigation.
A few weeks ago the Planning Commission heard the proposal for Davis Live Student Housing, which features 440 student beds in 71 units. And still on the table is Plaza 2555 with its estimated 554 beds.
That puts the number of approved units in the city at 3448. There would be another 994 possible. That puts the total number of units in the city at 4442.
With the housing on campus, we are looking at 13,492 beds.
We could certainly push for UC Davis to add that extra 1000 beds. At this point, I’m not sure that is the most critical need for them to do. I would be more concerned that UC Davis actually builds the 9050 it has promised. So far there is a plan for UC Davis to add 5200 beds. Officials at UC Davis assure me that they are working on the remaining 3800 beds, but it is reasonable to be concerned that, five years from now when the public has moved on to other focuses, the pressure might not be on.
The community has taken at times a negative view of UC Davis in terms of their commitment to on-campus housing. While that is understandable, part of the problem has been that, really up until the passage of Measure J in 2000 by Davis voters, UC Davis didn’t need to have as large an on-campus housing stock as some of the more urban universities with more limited housing off campus.
As we have noted, the cost of housing on campus is much higher than it is off campus. Given that Davis is the second least expensive community to live in of the UC schools, with the average annual cost at just under $10,000 per room, it should not be surprising that UC Davis students would look to off-campus housing.
On the other hand, UC Davis is the second most expensive UC to live at on campus, at an average of $16,136 per year (with the rate even higher for a single occupancy room). By our calculations, the cost of living on campus is 60 percent higher than living off campus.
From the Vanguard’s perspective, the 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.
And it has. Whether or not you think UC Davis has done enough, they have agreed to raise their on-campus housing stock from 28 percent to 48 percent in ten years.
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.
There are those who would argue that Davis, by building more housing off campus, is enabling UC Davis’ growth policies. The reality is that, as Davis has approved more housing off campus, they have better been able to push UC Davis to add more housing on campus.
UC Davis is adding 9050 of the 13,492 beds. That means that they are accommodating 67 percent or two-thirds of the new student housing. That seems like a reasonable ratio going forward. In fact, I would argue that if UC Davis added beds for two of every three new students going forward, Davis should take that in a heartbeat.
—David M. Greenwald reporting