In a provocative piece published yesterday in the Vanguard, Rik Keller argued that the market rate units at Nishi “will be among the most expensive, if not the most expensive rental units in town, and even the majority of the ‘affordable’ units will be more expensive than average current city rental rates.”
He writes, “Overall, the projected average unit rents for the whole project (including both the ‘market’ and the ‘affordable’ beds) are 35% and 51% higher than the Davis average for 2-bedroom and 3-bedroom unit leases.”
But while adult critics of the project have been quick to criticize affordability, student renters have embraced the project. I have yet to talk to a student who is concerned about the Nishi project due to its affordability.
Tim Ruff, the project manager, explained that the affordable to market rate comparisons are not necessarily apples-to-apples. He notes that the shared bedrooms, while not determined yet on size, are designed to be larger than the single room. They will have two people with two closets, two desks and two beds.
Mr. Ruff projects the rent at $407 or $670 for the affordable units with a $800 per bed market rate.
Mr. Ruff also points out: “Nothing new is cheaper than old. Compare it to a used car vs. a new car.”
He also points out this is a matter of supply versus demand, and without alternatives being built in the market place, the rents will go up across the board further.
Mr. Ruff points out that Nishi will be paying for everything and providing affordable housing even as costs for construction skyrockets.
Sandy Whitcombe noted in response to whether there would be doubled-up market rate beds: “The buildings/unit plans have not been designed or costed-out yet. We have the option of providing some double up rooms if necessary, and if so they will specially-designed for two people and will be provided for both affordable and market rate beds with no distinction between the two (besides price).”
Aaron Latta, a student who has helped to organize his fellow students to push for housing, pointed out in a comment that “the average bed lease for a two-bedroom apartment in Davis is $1,147/month—a figure conveniently left out. In fact, the per bed cost the article quotes is less than that for an equivalent apartment.”
He points out, however, “That being said, it should also be relatively expected for the market rate units to be more expensive than the average. Brand new apartments are objectively nicer and should catch a higher price. What does happen is that similarly priced apartments that are not as new will have to compete with nicer and newer units. The only way to compete would be to drop prices.”
His larger view as he told the Vanguard: “Market rate will continue to be expensive until we increase our supply.” He said, “Even if market rate at Nishi is a little higher, it’s still to fund a needed affordable program and is contributing (to fix) the main underlying problem – that problem is supply.”
Another student, Maiya De La Rosa, said that she currently lives in a single room with three people in it. Right now that costs her $700 to $950 a month, not including her meal plan.
“The affordable housing option Nishi is providing will save students money. Most students double up on rooms to get the same rate as one affordable bed in the Nishi project,” she said.
Adam Hatefi said, “Honestly, for me, the prices at Nishi seem pretty good considering the fact that next year I’m going to be paying $960 a month for a single room in the U apartments, which are pretty far from campus as well.”
He added, “Nishi is (both) cheaper and closer to campus, so in my opinion it’s pretty good for most students.”
ASUCD Senator Alisha Hacker added, “The average rental prices in Davis are continuing to skyrocket and the rent for Nishi is pretty standard for living that close to campus in that nice of a facility.”
She added, “Additionally, Nishi has an affordability program which is one of the first of its kind in Davis as it will allow students to qualify for reduced, affordable units.”
Don Gibson from the Graduate Students Association said, “Go on to any UC Davis meme facebook page and look at housing memes. Housing drives students nuts on how hard it is to find a place in Davis.”
He pointed out, “New construction will be more expensive than older buildings but actually having units subsidized for students would be a first and a step in the right direction.
“Go anywhere in the West Coast, housing is getting more expensive every day,” he said.
Mr. Gibson adds, “Homelessness is an issue now in Davis. Any significant number of new units helps relieve demand and lowers the increase in rent because there would be actually competition.”
He also points out: “The vast majority of students do not know about Measure R/J and the history of land use planning in Davis. And why would they? Most have been here for less than a few years and many have never voted before because of their age. It feels unjust that people who are never going to live in the Nishi project are the ones who get to decide if it gets built or not.”
The bottom line is that of the students we talked to – none seemed concerned that Nishi would be unaffordable. Others have pointed out as well that the market would act to drive down costs. Most believe that the key is adding supply and without new supply – something that critics really do not address – issues of affordability will remain problematic.
—David M. Greenwald reporting