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