On Tuesday, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg supported a temporary rent control measure. In a blog entry (here), he made it “clear that I do not favor permanent rent control…” Instead, he argued that “building more affordable units is the only successful long-term strategy to stabilize rents and provide quality housing for Sacramentans at all income levels.”
He also argued that “permanent or onerous regulation could stifle the incentive to build more housing.”
At the same time, he recognizes that “the path to new supply won’t produce results for years.”
He asks: “How do we help the tens of thousands of people and families who can’t afford to wait? How do we address the plight of real people who are one rent hike away from losing their homes?”
The mayor writes: “Sacramento’s rent trends are troubling. In 2017, renters in our city experienced an average increase of 9 percent, the highest year-to-year increase in the country.
“Too many people in our community struggle under an excessive rent burden. Among Sacramento’s 95,000 renter households, 49,167 spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. More than 26,200 of these people pay the landlord more than half of what they earn.”
The focus in Davis has been on providing sufficient housing to meet the increased demand from students due to UC Davis enrollment increases, as well as the pent up demand from the lack of new housing built in the city for the last 15-plus years.
However, affordability is an issue in the city of Davis.
While Davis has fared better than other UC communities, the cost of housing on campus is prohibitive. Many have held up on-campus housing as a solution to the housing shortage, and yet recent studies show that not only is on-campus housing about 60 percent more expensive than off-campus housing, they also show UC Davis is both more expensive than the average UC campus and has the second worst disparity.
We have not dipped enough into the issue of affordable housing. UC Davis has commissioned its own affordable housing task force, and we expect to have those results within the next two weeks. Already, Don Gibson of the Graduate Student Association has been leaking out information, at least on issues like housing security.
Last week, at a public comments, he noted that through the Affordable Housing Task Force’s survey, “we estimate that 19 percent of students have some form of housing insecurity. This includes not being able to pay rent on time, having to move twice within a year, or having to double up rooms because of financial reasons.”
They also estimate that somewhere between seven and nine percent “face some form of homelessness.”
“That doesn’t mean that nine percent of campus is forced to live in tents,” he explained. “That means that they were forced to be evicted from a room, they were forced to live in shelter, approximately two percent reported living at some point within the last year in a tent, a car, or a building not made for housing.”
Homelessness, he said, is an issue “we can only solve by building more homes.”
In the meantime, Davis City Manager Mike Webb indicated that the city is looking at its affordable housing requirements. He told the council that the preliminary report is concluded and that they will roll out the findings sometimes this fall. But a lot of that will focus on the issue of how much the city can require in new projects, not an examination of affordability in general.
This is an issue that is very important, and hasn’t gotten near enough coverage.
We have focused on increasing supply because I think most people across the board agree that the lack of available housing is driving a lot of these problems. It is what is increasing density.
Don Gibson pointed out last week, “Even though the total number of units in the city hasn’t increased, you’re having greater and greater density. Now it’s regular for students to double up in rooms because of high demand.”
Supply remains an issue. Already, 3000 beds that were approved at Lincoln40 and Nishi are tied up in litigation. The Davis Live apartments may soon join them. That would mean about 3500 of nearly 4200 beds approved in the last 18 months would be tied up in litigation.
Others have argued that we have a lack of rental housing for families. That is certainly an issue that we have yet to address. One of the problems is the high cost of housing for two- and three-bedroom apartments. When you are having to pay on average $2000 to $2400 per month for an apartment, is it cost effective for families to live here?
Students have an advantage. They can split the rent. If the rent is too high, they can double up in rooms, even if that is not the optimal arrangement.
There have been scattered pushes and discussions about things like rent control, but, for the most part, the issues in Davis have focused on addressing supply needs. What we have not addressed at all is cost. As soon as we move away from student housing, cost is going to become the most overwhelming issue.
—David M. Greenwald reporting