UC Davis Releases Recommendations for Affordable Student Housing

On Wednesday, UC Davis released its recommendations of three task forces that addressed basic student needs including affordable student housing, food security and mental health care.

“It’s imperative that students can meet their basic needs of food, shelter and security so that they can succeed in their studies and in their overall well-being,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May. “The students, faculty and staff who worked on these task forces have developed thoughtful recommendations to help provide resources to our students effectively and efficiently. We are pleased to support those recommendations through a variety of efforts.”

UC Davis is already addressing some of these recommendations.  For instance, “Student Housing and Dining Services currently has several student housing projects in process including the West Village expansion and Orchard Park Apartments development. And Student Affairs has committed to ensuring that Aggie Compass, which helps students to meet immediate and long-term needs in regards to food security, has stable funding on an annual basis.”


  • Ensure fiscal sustainability of campus food and basic needs programs.
  • Create campus services and programs that promote food security.
  • Raise awareness of campus options, services and benefits.
  • Promote food and health literacy.
  • Create long-term strategies to advocate for university/state/federal policies and programs that address affordable housing and food security as a whole.
  • Prioritize and implement recommendations though a standing committee.


  • Charge and empower a leadership team to implement recommendations.
  • Invite the city of Davis and nearby municipalities to participate in an ongoing forum to address affordable housing, sustainable transportation and related issues.
  • Identify funds to support student housing.
  • Monitor affordable housing trends through annual surveys and data.


  • Improve access to mental health services.
  • Form a suicide prevention and “postvention” protocol.
  • Create pathways for getting feedback from students, including a student advisory board and regular outreach to students.
  • Create a culture of student mental health beyond the clinical setting that includes all members of the campus community who regularly interact with and support students.
  • Empower and include student groups and community organizers in mental health-related conversations and discussions.

Chancellor May convened the task forces in February to address these important issues. Each task force submitted its recommendations on June 30.

“The task forces reviewed existing programs and options, considered improvements and made recommendations on how we can move forward productively to better serve our students,” Chancellor May said. “I want to thank each member of the task forces for their commitment to identifying potential solutions that can be implemented in a reasonable period of time.”

Affordable Student Housing

The report is dated June 30 and features task force members including: Associate Dean David Campbell, Emily Galindo the Executive Director, Student Housing and Dining Services and Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs; students Don Gibson, Michael Gofman (ASUCD President), Jeanelle Hope, Alexandra Igwe, Aaron Latta and Michael Rios.

The task force found, “A dramatic 47% upsurge of enrollment in Davis campus programs between 2000 and 2017 has outpaced local housing availability, helping drive up rents in the city of Davis by over 31% (in inflation adjusted dollars).”

A recent ASUCD-GSA Housing Affordability and Insecurity Survey finds that “during the past year (2017-18), about 7% of the students surveyed were homeless for a period of time and 2% spent time living in their car or another place not intended as housing (see Figure 2 and Appendix C for details). Almost 18% of respondents experienced either homelessness or some other form of housing insecurity, such as making only partial rent or utility payments, doubling up in rooms without a lease, moving in with others because of financial problems, or moving more than twice during the year.”

They write: “The bottom line is deeply troubling. Far too often, housing costs and unsettled or even abusive housing circumstances undermine students’ educational experiences while they attend UC Davis. These burdens exacerbate related problems with food insecurity and mental health, and often follow students into adulthood in the form of debt. Given our values and mission as a campus, these trends are not acceptable. Bold action is needed.

“We are encouraged by recent commitments made by the campus and the City of Davis to build new student housing. However, this additional housing capacity is many years away from being realized. In the meantime, vacancy rates will continue to be extremely low and the upward pressure on rents will persist. As a result, the next three to five years is a particularly critical juncture for supporting students’ housing needs. Extraordinary measures beyond conventional planning routines will be necessary,” they write.

They conclude: “The four primary recommendations in this report are intended to be foundational for turning the curve on affordable student housing at UC Davis.”

Key steps are: 1) bringing the right partners together, 2) generating a variety of short-term responses oriented toward shared goals, 3) marshalling current and new resources to pursue opportunities; and 4) using data to track progress toward goals.

Here is the full list of 19 recommendations:

Overarching Priorities

  1. We recommend that the Chancellor charge and empower a leadership team with the responsibility to implement the recommendations in this report. The leadership team should provide quarterly updates to the campus community on its work. We expect that substantial progress on all 19 recommendations can be achieved by the end of the 2018-19 school year. The leadership team would be led by the Office of Student Affairs, but include representatives of other key administrative offices and student leadership groups, including: Budget and Institutional Analysis, Campus Planning, Government Relations, Student Housing and Dining Services, Financial Aid, Aggie Compass, Unitrans, Associated Students of the University of California, Davis (ASUCD), and the Graduate Student Association (GSA).
  2. We recommend that the Chancellor invite leaders from the City of Davis and nearby municipalities to participate in an ongoing forum that would address shared interests in affordable housing, sustainable transportation, and related issues. The current crisis presents the opportunity for a new era of city and regional collaboration, one in which elected officials, administrators, businesses, nonprofit organizations, affordable housing developers, and citizen groups all have a stake. We envision quarterly gatherings that might include informal opportunities to develop relationships, informational presentations to spark partnership ideas, and spin-off working groups to pursue specific collaborative opportunities.
  3. Identify funds to support affordable student housing. Currently, Student Housing and Dining Services operates on a “pay your own way model.” Expanding services beyond the limitations of this model will require an exhaustive effort to identify potential funding sources that could subsidize housing costs for students via stipends, vouchers, and/or reductions in on-campus rents. These might include public, private, or philanthropic sources, or innovative financing methods such as housing bonds, community land trusts or cooperative housing models.
  4. Monitor affordable housing trends by means of a yearly survey and other data. Although Student Housing and Dining Services has provided an annual vacancy survey for many years, the campus should develop a regular capacity to draw together campus, city and regional housing and transportation data to assess trends in housing affordability. This effort is needed to determine if the action steps recommended in this report are succeeding. It can build on the successful pilot survey (Appendix C) conducted by GSA and ASUCD in the spring of 2018 (ASUCD-GSA Housing Affordability and Insecurity Survey, 2018).

Short-to-medium-term Action Priorities

I. Manage supply, demand, and design on campus

5. Limit enrollment increases. The time has come for an era of much slower, incremental growth in the student population, enabling the campus to catch up with infrastructure needs, including housing, classroom space, and student support services.

  1. Increase the campus housing supply by building more units. We welcome the Chancellor’s recent decision to increase the target of new housing units to be built on campus to include 9,050 beds, but our analysis of the available data suggests that number needs to be higher in order to reverse the trend toward increasingly unaffordable housing.
  2. Design for affordability. In any new campus housing development, including remodeling of existing structures, emphasize housing design specifications that enhance affordability, including options that pair smaller private spaces with shared community spaces providing basic amenities

II. Advocate for students

8. Adjust UC financial aid budget calculations to reflect the actual market value of rental units, rather than student survey responses. As discussed in detail in the body of this report, UC-wide financial aid calculations systematically underestimate the actual housing costs faced by students. Campus leaders should press UC Office of the President (UCOP) officials to change their methods and calculations immediately.

  1. Ensure an appropriate ratio between housing rental rates and the salaries graduate students receive as Graduate Student Researchers and Teaching Assistants. As of 2017, two graduate students sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Davis can expect to pay 36% of their salaries (up from 27% of the salary in 2000) on rent if they both work at 50% time. Working with the appropriate parties at the UC Office of the President, the campus should ensure this ratio begins to decline, for example, by factoring housing costs into salary negotiations to support more appropriate compensation.

III. Develop and/or improve specific housing services for students

  1. Provide adequate and readily accessible emergency housing services. Given that the ASUCD-GSA Housing Affordability and Insecurity Survey data find high levels of housing insecurity and homelessness among UC Davis students, we recommend that Student Affairs be charged with putting an emergency housing services plan in place during the next school year.
  2. Establish an ombudsperson and/or call line to support students facing landlord issues. Students and city officials both report increasing numbers of conflicts between student tenants and their landlords. The Office of Student Affairs should collaborate with the city’s Rental Resources Program, or similar agency, to increase the support available to students in these situations. Stronger renter’s rights protections are an important, tangible way to support students.
  3. Create financial/rental literacy programs for students. Many students report difficulties navigating lease agreements and other aspects of being new to renting. We recommend that the Office of Student Affairs works with a student advisory committee, and with the city’s Rental Resource Program staff, to create a practical, accessible (e.g. online) financial and rental literacy education program.
  4. Improve roommate matching programs to better assist students in vetting roommates. Due to extremely low rental vacancy rates, and increased housing costs, the need to double or triple up to reduce rents has increased. Together with early deadlines for lease renewals, these trends mean that many students have difficulty finding and keeping roommates, or feeling secure in their housing situation. A roommate matching service is needed. It might be more effective and visible if it is intentionally connected to the new Aggie Compass in the Memorial Union.
  5. Reestablish a Campus Community Housing Listing Service. Housing options for students need to be made more transparent and accessible. In developing this capacity, attention should be given to using web platforms that are available to international students, and to the needs of students who must relocate to satellite campuses during their course of study, such as students at the Bodega Marine Lab.
  6. Provide incentives for city landlords to become ‘Aggie preferred housing partners.’ This might be facilitated by having students, campus housing officials, and city personnel working to update the ASUCD Davis model lease to incorporate affordability elements such as guidelines restricting year-to-year rent increases. A more robust rental inspection program, modeled after the nationally recognized one in the City of Sacramento, can also help by identifying housing code violations that might impact students.
  7. Increase Financial Aid Office Staff Support. Both undergraduate and graduate students report some problems receiving financial aid disbursements in a timely fashion. Due to resource constraints, a limited number of applications are processed daily, restricting the timely availability of grants or loans. Additional automation and staff will provide concrete benefits to students.
  8. Keep Solano Park Open as Long as Possible. To preserve affordable housing options for graduate students while the university and other developers are in the process of building more housing, Solano Park graduate student housing should be kept open as long as possible, with appropriate maintenance and renovation as required.

IV. Pursue innovation

18. Provide better transportation options for students, faculty, and staff living outside of Davis. Many students, staff, and faculty live outside of Davis in search of cheaper housing or for other reasons. One way to increase student affordable housing options, which would also benefit faculty and staff, would be to provide frequent, accessible, and sustainable transportation options to campus from nearby municipalities.

19. Develop and build a co-op housing facility with professional management. A number of college campuses or university towns have successfully developed large scale co-op housing models that combine professional management with traditional co-op principles such as shared equity. A key benefit of the co-op model is providing mechanisms that increase affordability, such as student on-site work requirements. We recommend that such a facility be constructed on campus, with careful evaluation of its costs and benefits as a future campus model.


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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.

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    1. Ron

      In all seriousness, I’m wondering why that didn’t work out at Pacifico.  (The other article does not address this, but notes that it apparently/only became a problem for neighbors after it ceased being a student housing cooperative.)

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