More Details Emerge on Student Housing Survey

Don Gibson speaking to the Planning Commission on Wednesday

Last Sunday, Don Gibson published a much talked about guest commentary in the Vanguard.  In it, he revealed the results of a student survey commissioned on behalf of the Chancellor’s Affordable Student Housing Task Force, which found that 9 percent of students suffer from some form of homelessness and 19 percent are otherwise housing insecure.

The findings have created criticism, and during the public comment period of the Davis Live housing discussion at the Planning Commission meeting, Don Gibson, along with colleague Robert Saper, spoke, illuminating more information including details on some of the definitions.

Robert Saper, a graduate student at UC Davis, has his master’s in Community Development and has worked as a research assistant for the Task Force.  He worked on the May 2018 housing survey of over 1800 students.  “Findings from that survey and additional analysis will soon be published by the Chancellor’s Office,” he said.

“In the past year, 18 to 19 percent of students reported some form of housing insecurity,” he reported.  “That means that they couldn’t pay their full rent, their full utilities, they moved two or more times, they doubled up with others without a lease, or they moved in with others because of their financial circumstances.”

Mr. Saper further reported that that figure also included “7 percent of respondents who said that they experienced homelessness temporarily or for a prolonged period.

“That means that they were evicted or thrown out, that they lived in a shelter, weren’t sure where they were going to sleep for a night or were living in their car.”

He said, “According to the survey, an estimated 600 students were detected as having lived in their car or somewhere else not designated as housing.”

Mr. Saper noted that rent prices have skyrocketed in recent years.  He said, “I think these numbers reflect not a simple crisis of affordability, they reflect an absolute market stagnation and degraded quality of life.  I don’t think this is a problem that the university can face on its own or the city can face on its own.  It’s going to require a concerted collaboration.”

He noted that the chancellor through the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) has set “ambitious housing goals,” but he believes “their implementation is going to take a decade and they’re going to be woefully inadequate and painful for the students if the university is left to be the sole solution to the problem.”

Don Gibson is Chair of the ASUCD Graduate Student Association (GSA) Housing Task Force and a member of the Chancellor’s Affordable Housing Task Force.  He noted his op-ed from the weekend.

He added a new finding: “The density of the units in Davis for multi-families has gone from 2.4 to almost 3.”

That means that in 2000, the average unit had 2.37 (rounded up to 2.4) people per unit and it now has almost 3 people per unit.  This is not due to changes in the structure of units, and there have been almost no additional units built in that time – that is due to more students moving into existing housing units.

He said, “Not as many students as I suspected were actually leaving town – they were just having to double-up in rooms.”

He said, “That’s led to the mini-dorm problem that has garnered a lot of discussion here in town.”

In his op-ed, he pointed out, “Through our campus survey we have estimated that there are approximately 465 ‘mini dorms’ (1.5.renter/bedroom in a detached house) with approximately 2,200 students living in them. To reduce impacts on family neighborhoods these students need more options.”

He said on Wednesday, in order to bring the density back to the 2.37 it was in 2000, “We would need to approve all current projects and have the university build what they say they were going to build in the next five years, and then we would be short by about 1200 beds if we also wanted to get rid of the mini-dorm issue.”

Mr. Gibson said that is the way to get the single-family homes back to what they were designed to provide – housing for families.  “We need places for students to live in student communities,” he said.  “I don’t think students want to live in these situations where they have to double up…  If we want to get to the situation where we free up some of our single family homes, we need to actually get students into housing specifically designed for students.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting


Get Tickets To Vanguard’s Immigration Rights Event

Eventbrite - Immigration Law: Defending Immigrant Rights and Keeping Families Together

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Related posts

20 Comments

  1. Todd Edelman

    “I don’t think students want to live in these situations where they have to double up… “

    Huh? Davis Live, Nishi 2.0… many double-up rooms by design… with supposedly-affordable rents based on an exaggerated market-rate.

    If we want to get to the situation where we free up some of our single family homes, we need to actually get students into housing specifically designed for students.”

    People double-up on $800 rooms in “single-family homes”, and the “designed for students” version gets 15% paying $450 to $600 each in a double-up.  Housing doesn’t need to be designed for anything but flexibility. Flexible housing creates more diverse communities, too. Most students in Europe live at home or in normal apartments.  What about “chosen family” etc? A lot of problems can be solved if the number of cars that can be parked in the driveway and garage are regulated and in the public right of way controlled with parking permits.

    I appreciate very much the research and the data, but some of Gibson’s solutions… not so much.

    1. David Greenwald

      Todd: You are not understanding what Don is saying. The double-up rooms by design are designed for two occupants in a room. In most cases they will be furnished and arranged so that the living space works. What Don is talking about is students having to live in situations where the rooms were not designed for two people. There is a big difference.

      I find it very interesting that the people who are having to live in these situations talk and yet the people not having to live in these situations think they know better.

      1. Todd Edelman

        I’ve lived in dorms and in tripled-up rooms. I’ve slept in a car (with access to a nearby inside bathroom), on a couch, on a floor, on a futon, which I had to roll up and hide away every day. Right now, I probably have way less space than most 52 year-olds in town, and I don’t own a car so can’t conveniently escape town at any time.

        Size can vary. Furniture is mobile and temporary. Are you talking about built-in closets and direct access to bathrooms?

        In no way am I implying that there is not a housing crisis. This is part of the reason I have consistently argued for more housing than planned in several projects that have appeared in the past couple of years.

      2. Ken A

        I’m wondering if David is aware that almost every bedroom in America is “designed” for (at least) two occupants.

        In rare cases an architect will work with a single client and “design” a bedroom for just one person, but if you talk to most architects they will assume that every master bedroom they “design” will be occupied by a couple and most bedrooms they “design” will be occupied by more than one person at some time in the next 100 years (when Carter Sparks designed all the homes Bill Streng built in Davis he didn’t assume that the families buying the 3br homes would have a maximum of two kids)…

  2. Don Shor

    He said, “According to the survey, an estimated 600 students were detected as having lived in their car or somewhere else not designated as housing.”

    For all the quibbling about semantics on the 100+ comments the other day, I would say that this number is what constitutes a crisis.

    1. Ken A

      I would be interested to see how the survey defined “lived” (and if all the kids that spend the night in Dad’s Suburban in a Reno parking lot on the way to Burning Man will be added to the list of “students living in cars” or the kid that passed out in the Theta Chi backyard will be counted as “living” “somewhere else not designated as housing”).

      The “600 students were detected as having lived in their car or somewhere else not designated as housing.”” is more believable than the thousands of “homeless” students reported earlier (where most of the -so called- “homeless” must be living in a “home”, but it is still high (unless you define “away from home” for a night or two as “homeless”).

      1. David Greenwald

        “is more believable than the thousands of “homeless” students reported earlier ”

        In fairness, once again, nowhere was that reported. We still don’t have a precise definition although, we now have a better idea of it: “That means that they were evicted or thrown out, that they lived in a shelter, weren’t sure where they were going to sleep for a night or were living in their car.”

        1. Ken A

          We have a “definition” of “homeless” (or “starving”) but for political purposes people often change the definition to something like “not at home one night” (or going a full week without a Double Double so you are “starving” for one).

          On June 25th David wrote:

          ” If the numbers being reported in the survey are to be believed, over 7,200 of the 38,369 UC Davis students (see UCD’s high-level-dashboard) are either homeless or couch surfing.”

          http://www.davisvanguard.org/2018/07/commentary-student-housing-dont-criticize-cant-understand/#comment-389367

    1. David Greenwald

      They have not released the study yet. They are expected to in the coming weeks, all we have is Don’s op-ed from Sunday and the comments here.

  3. Tia Will

    They have not released the study yet. They are expected to in the coming weeks, all we have is Don’s op-ed from Sunday and the comments here.”

    This seems key to me. Much time spent posting without knowing how the questions were phrased and how selection of participants was made. I am inclined to keep my powder dry until the study itself has been posted.

     

    1. Alan Miller

      > I am inclined to keep my powder dry until the study itself has been posted.

      Keeping one’s powder dry is great until someone mentions they have a cannon on the way.

  4. Matt Williams

    This is the kind of balanced article that should have been the first in the series rather than one that came “down the line.”  It is also noteworthy that the political spin word “crisis” is only used once in the article, and if the statistics about rent increases are borne out, Mr. Saper’s use of the word actually is consistent with the definition.

    I wholeheartedly agree that “this is a problem that the university can face on its own or the city can face on its own.  It’s going to require a concerted collaboration.”

    There is one very interesting statement in the article that does merit a lot of further discussion.  That statement is, “He said on Wednesday, in order to bring the density back to the 2.37 it was in 2000.”  Three questions that come to mind are; “Why is a density of 2.37 peer unit more desirable than almost 3 people per unit? and “Did the average number of bedrooms per unit change between 2000 and 2018?”  and “What is the average number of bedrooms in Davis apartments?” I am sure there are a lot more questions on this subject, but those are the first three that come to my mind.

    In closing, I want to thank Don Gibson and Robert Saper for their work on this subject.  I look forward to discussing their findings further at some future date.

    1. Ken A

      Matt asks: ““Did the average number of bedrooms per unit change between 2000 and 2018?”

      Yes, the average number of bedrooms per unit in Davis has been increasing for 30 years (and it will get even higher if all the proposed 3 and 4 bedroom units are built in the next 5 years)…

    2. David Greenwald

      Matt –

      1 – I’ll let hopefully a student address question one.

      2 – I can tell you that between 2000 and 2002, there have been almost no new apartments built, so I believe that the make up of the supply is virtually unchanged. Sterling was the first approved apartments since 2002 I believe in Davis.

      3 – I asked Don about the units after he spoke and he told me most apartments are one and two bedroom

  5. Alan Miller

    “That means that they couldn’t pay their full rent, their full utilities, they moved two or more times, they doubled up with others without a lease, or they moved in with others because of their financial circumstances.”

    All of the above, 35 years ago and today.  None of this is uncommon with students over the years.  I’ve did some of that.  Is it more severe now?  I have no doubt.  The point is, it’s good to know the definitions BEFORE the numbers, and have something to compare.  Simply first throwing out words like “housing insecure” doesn’t help.  We need to see the questions. And were students told this was for a housing survey with the intent of influencing policy?  That could cause bias in reporting, not intentionally even.

    The point is that having definitions that can be so easily unraveled hurt the cause.  Like when sexual assault is defined as a misogynist remark or rape, and then report all as sexual assault.  When one finds those numbers can be unraveled, it hurts rape victims, not helps people who had someone make an offensive remark at them.

    All we need to know that student rental availability is severely lacking is the sustained low vacancy rate and the double-digit increases in rent the last 2-3 years.  Such simple economic indicators don’t lie.

  6. Jeff M

    I would be interested to hear from VG regulars if the believe that healthcare is a right, or a paid for service/product with variable costs based on markets?  What should the government’s role be with respect to healthcare considering the previous.

    And then follow up with the same question about housing… is it a right, or should it be a paid for service/product with variable cost based on markets?  What should the government’s role be with respect to housing considering the previous.

    Next, do you feel the same way about healthcare and housing for children?  If so, at what age would you consider the children adults and subject to your preferences for adults?

    I will start.

    I think healthcare should be a paid for service/product with variable costs based on markets, and the government should get out of the business of healthcare except to foment copious free and fair competition with providers… except to regulate the cost differentiation for pre-existing conditions.

    I think housing should be a paid for service/product with variable costs based on markets, and the government should stay out of the business of housing except for setting reasonable building code compliance rules.

    And I do NOT feel the same way about healthcare and housing for children.  I think as long as the children are attending school up until the age of 26 we should make sure they all have some reasonable and affordable base level of healthcare and some reasonable and affordable base level of housing.

    I think the UCD students have access to reasonable and affordable healthcare coverage through a school program; however, I think we are blowing it on the housing side.  The cost of housing while they attend school has become the biggest cost driver to student debt.  That is ridiculous.

    Healthcare and affordable housing for adults should be a completely different subject in my opinion.

    1. David Greenwald

      Jeff – we’re not going down this rabbit hole.  If you want to write a piece and submit it, fine.  But this is getting us way off topic.

    2. Don Shor

      I’m not debating the philosophy of whether it’s a right. I think if 600 people don’t have a place to live, every effort should be made to find housing for them. If they’re students, then it’s primarily the university’s responsibility to treat the housing needs of those students with greater urgency. If private housing can be made available in new developments to address these temporary housing issues, that would be helpful going forward.
      The chancellor needs to understand that there is a crisis for some of his students and that he can probably take action to get it corrected faster than anyone else. He needs to make it a priority.
      I believe they all have access to reasonable health care if they are enrolled at UCD.
      I also think we tend to forget the impact of all of this on the young adults in the rental market who don’t happen to be UCD students.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for