For much of the last few years while we have been undergoing a discussion of student housing here in Davis, we have had those who advocate less housing in town hold up UC Santa Cruz as a model. We have been told that an agreement between the city and university, the result of litigation by the city to control the expansion of the university, was the way to go.
One crack that started to appear in that narrative was the Santa Cruz city residents last June voting on an advisory vote to prevent further enrollment growth at the university. Worse yet, however, is the story by the San Jose Mercury News, that the campus is unable to provide housing for all the students living on campus.
Reports the paper: “Facing a shortage of housing for people who want to live on campus as the start of the fall quarter looms, UC Santa Cruz sent an email this week to faculty and staff asking them to open their homes to students.”
“The need is real and it is urgent, so I am reaching out to the faculty and staff community for help,” the Executive Director of Housing Services, Dave Keller, wrote. “Offering a room in your home to a student who has not been able to find housing for the school year would be a tremendous support to their success at UCSC.”
According to the article, the campus offers more housing on campus than many other public universities in the state, with about 9300 students or roughly half the student body, AND the school “guarantees two years of housing to incoming freshmen and one year of housing to incoming transfer students.”
Despite this, “several hundred students remain on its waitlist for housing, and there are not enough off-campus rental options on its Community Rentals page to accommodate them.”
Reports the paper: “The school offered admission to 35,000 students this year, and expects to enroll about 5,600 new undergraduates. After facing criticism for failing to admit enough transfer students, Santa Cruz admitted more than 7,000 this year, up from around 5,300 the previous year.”
Now the problem: “All of those students will need some place to live. And while living on campus at UC Santa Cruz is relatively expensive compared to housing costs at many other UC and CSU schools, living off campus isn’t cheap, either.”
“The local market rental rates have continued to increase with Silicon Valley influence,” Scott Hernandez-Jason, Director of News and Media Relations at UC Santa Cruz, said.
There are those who have argued that the city of Davis needs to reach an agreement with UC Davis, much as Santa Cruz and Berkeley have with their respective campuses, to mitigate the impact of continued enrollment growth.
Perhaps this is to the benefit of the community – although I would argue, as I have, that for the most part the benefit of UC Davis to Davis far exceeds the inconvenience of having to build more apartment buildings periodically.
Back in June, as reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel on June 6: “Voters sent a clear message to UC officials eyeing sizeable enrollment growth to the Santa Cruz campus on Tuesday: Thanks, but no thanks.”
The voters were asked whether to oppose enrollment growth at UC Santa Cruz. The answer was overwhelming: 6526 people voted yes and only 2010 people voted no. That comes to 77-23 in percentages.
Excellent legal settlements unless you are students trying to get an education and to find a place to live.
The situation in Santa Cruz is of course far worse than in Davis. The cost of living on campus is expensive, but so too is the cost of rent off campus, where average rents have soared, according to the Mercury News article, beyond $2000, “with even individual rooms in homes running students around $1,000.”
In the meantime, “The university is in the process of trying to build thousands of new housing units specifically for upper-division students who would otherwise have to find off-campus accommodations. But the plan has generated some pushback from community members concerned about environmental impacts.”
Wrote Eileen Samitz: “The host cities of Santa Cruz, San Diego and Berkeley are all fed up with the UCs being opportunistic and have gotten excellent legal settlements from challenging the UCs in these cities.”
Is this really the model we want to follow?
By comparison, the issues at UC Davis have been relatively tame. The city has currently approved between 4200 and 4500 student beds. About 3000 of them at Lincoln40 and Nishi are tied up in litigation.
Meanwhile, the campus has pledged to build about 9050 beds by 2027.
The city and university have their differences of course, but rather than going to litigation, the two sides will have a mediator help them through their differences. That seems like the preferable route. But unless the differences can be resolved, the city will continue to have student housing shortfalls.
—David M. Greenwald reporting