Monday Morning Thoughts: Renters Still Face Challenges in Davis

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The other day I was purchasing some food at Safeway after dropping off my kids at school and saw, in the car next me, a nice college-aged couple asleep in the front seat of their vehicle.  On Sunday, driving around the same parking lot, I found no less than four folks sleeping in their cars.

Eric Gudz has been trying to raise the issue of the vulnerability of renters by relaying stories each council meeting during public comment.

This week he tells the following story, submitted a few weeks ago:

We moved 6.5 years ago from San Francisco with our five week old son, as only my husband would be working, a PhD state employee working on the environment, our rent was a bit high for a house.  $1675, but we could manage. 

Later I went back to work, as a masters level psychotherapist, and we had another child.  Over the years, the owners were great and while the rent was increased, it was fair.  This year when it came time to renew our lease, they said they were selling the house.  Of course, it makes sense because the market is insane.  Yet I was devastated.  They asked if we would be interested in buying, which of course we were, but there was no way we could compete in this housing market.

I began searching for a new rental.  Our son had already completed kindergarten and had some good friends – so I was hoping to be in the same area.  Anything even remotely comparable was $700 more a month.  We both have good jobs and graduate degrees.  So how could it be that we are completely priced out? 

We got a last minute reprieve when the owners decided not to sell.  Yet it has shaken me to my core.  I truly do not want to live in Woodland or Sacramento, but we may end up there with no choice.  I thought this was supposed to be a family town. 

Part of why we chose here was to provide a stable environment for our kids, moving and new schools is kind of the opposite.

Later during the public comment for Plaza 2555 there was a comment that struck me, as well.

A lady named Cary Anne spoke about her experience as a single parent living in Davis with her son.  “My means are far below much of what is readily available in Davis,” she said.  “Looking for an apartment to rent was an unbelievably frustrating experience.”

This is a key point, because I keep reading comments from our posters looking at listings as though they were indicative of available rental housing.

Cary Anne explained, “Listings were outdated.  Many listings were scams.  There were many signs posted indicating availability when that was actually not the case.  When in fact they might have even had a waiting list.  I searched every day for a number of weeks and came up with occasional derelict apartments that were getting passed along.”

She then talked about finding four- and five-bedroom apartments with spaces shared with other college students – not an appropriate situation for her and her son.

Finally, I got an email from a reader who was frustrated at the responses from some of the Vanguard comments toward some of Eric Gudz’s previous anecdotes on rental problems in Davis.

As he put it, “The response from the ‘adult’ commenters on the Vanguard has not been very encouraging.  Their reaction is incredulous, some have suggested that landlords tell their bad renter stories, others have suggested that the students are basically idiots for not knowing to use Google to find a solution.”

The student wanted me to pass on to the “adults” that they don’t have a good appreciation as to the true vulnerability of renters as exposed in this market.

His story is that he lives with two other students in a three bedroom that is not part of a major apartment building.  He lives in an older but small duplex that is in exceedingly bad condition.

The electricity and heating are suspect at best.  The power cuts in and out and heating doesn’t work at times – which is not yet a problem, but will be.

So why not complain?  Well, for one thing they did not sign a year lease, they are on month to month.  Their belief is that if they complain the landlord will simply let them go from their lease and at this point in time they will have few options.  Currently they are paying $800 for the single room and $400 each for the shared room.

The availability of housing is another problem.  People are always pointing to listings they see.  The public commenter, however, noted that a lot of those listings are outdated or fraudulent.  Some don’t exist.  Some are in bad condition.  And those that are in good condition, and rentable, end up with 100 people applying for them and thus a long waiting list.

Basically, they feel trapped.  They’re not stupid,  they know what their rights are, but at least right now they are living with a roof over their heads and they have electricity some of the time.  And it’s “affordable” for them.

So there they are, frustrated and feeling like the “adults” in this community really do not care.  The student also pointed out that his family doesn’t have a lot of resources and so he’s having to make his way pretty much on his own.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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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27 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Renters Still Face Challenges in Davis”

      1. Jim Hoch

        Woodland has built large amounts of inexpensive housing. That’s why it looks the way it does.

        Davis has not built large amounts of inexpensive housing, that’s why this person wants to live here.  They are not looking to change the way that we build housing, they just  want a discount because they have graduate degrees you know. Why should someone with a graduate degree have to live in Woodland?

        The fact that they moved here from SF and are complaining of the prices in Davis just adds a dimension of irony to the complaint.

        1. Ken A

          I think the people with grad degrees complaining about the cost to rent a nice home with a yard in Davis (that is on average LESS expensive than the cost to rent a crappy 1br apartment in SF or Berkeley) are the “entitled adults”.  Like Jeff I don’t have any problem if they build more homes in Davis, but since a couple with grad degrees complaining about the rents in Davis won’t build more homes or stop the family that owns the place they rent from putting it on the market when values start dropping again now might be a good idea to lock in a 30 year loan and buy a place they can afford (before interest rates go even higher and they can’t even afford a place in Woodland or West Sac)…

    1. Jeff M

      I agree Jim.  I know a lot of people that would like to live in other places but cannot afford it.

      I had an employee that cried in my office because even after her husband became a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, they would not be able to afford to buy the type of house she wanted in Santa Barbara unless she kept working… and she did not want to keep working.

      With respect to this PhD state employee not being able to afford Davis… maybe he should consider quitting and working in the private sector where he might have greater take-home pay… but have no pension.

      1. Craig Ross

        I find your reaction odd.  The lack of supply in Davis has consequences.  It leads to market imbalances and the result is people can’t afford to live here – even people who work here.  Then a whole host of people living in comfortable homes is – get a better job, find another place to live – rather than fix the market imbalances so people who work here can live here.  I don’t get because you – Jeff – are pro-growth and yet seemingly completely oblivious to the contradiction in your position here.

  1. Ron

    From article/David:  “Later during the public comment for Plaza 2555 there was a comment that struck me, as well.”

    “She then talked about finding four- and five-bedroom apartments with spaces shared with other college students – not an appropriate situation for her and her son.”

    Strange, you’ve been “arguing” with Eileen for months regarding this same issue (even beyond the point that she stopped participating in Vanguard discussions).  And yet, you now seem to be “struck” by someone providing an actual example.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      Nothing strange. I reported what was said. The biggest problem is the lack of vacancy means that people like this woman can’t find affordable places to live. We haven’t added any capacity yet. Once we do that will help.

      1. Ron

        You said that you were “struck” by this person’s comment.  It’s the same thing that Eileen has been stating for months.

        If the city approves nothing but student housing (in locations that could accommodate a broader population – assuming that housing is the best choice to begin with), then this is the entirely predictable outcome.

        Approval of housing designed exclusively for students also increases the likelihood that other needs will be addressed via “sprawl”.

        1. David Greenwald

          This is the part of the comment I was struck by: Cary Anne explained, “Listings were outdated.  Many listings were scams.  There were many signs posted indicating availability when that was actually not the case.  When in fact they might have even had a waiting list.  I searched every day for a number of weeks and came up with occasional derelict apartments that were getting passed along.”

          people including you have pointed to the listings as evidence of availability and I and others have pointed out they’re misleading. This is anecdotal evidence on that. I believe the structural concerns of Eileen are fixed through supply.

        2. Jim Hoch

          This is true of Craigslist in most areas and hardly unique to Davis. Zillow and other sources are far better. CL is often cheaper than the actual market due to fake ads.

          “Listings were outdated.  Many listings were scams.  There were many signs posted indicating availability when that was actually not the case.  When in fact they might have even had a waiting list.  I searched every day for a number of weeks and came up with occasional derelict apartments that were getting passed along.”

        3. David Greenwald

          I’m sure that’s true Jim, but “you guys” used listings as evidence of availability to argue against the notion that the low vacancy rate wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I’ve pointed out that that wasn’t the case. Real listings had long applicant lists.

        4. Ken A

          We all know that there are some scam listings but over 90% of the for rent ads on Craig’s List are real places for rent (the scams get flagged and taken down fast).

          I am amazed how many (smarter than average) UCD students seem to think that “Leasing for Next Year” sign means they have an apartment available “today”…

        5. Ron

          David:  “I believe the structural concerns of Eileen are fixed through supply.”

          Perhaps new supply should be suitable for more than one type of population.  Especially when zoning and plans are changed, to suit proposals.

        6. Ron

          Almost your entire focus has been on students.  Are you their spokesperson? Are you, in fact, encouraging them (behind the scenes) to focus their efforts on the city (instead of on campus)?

          Why haven’t final plans been approved, for Orchard Park (on campus)?

        7. Jim Hoch

          I presume “you guys” is a granfalloon or”false karass”?

          Anyway you have published articles that use Zillow data to show longitudinal movement of people which is even worse. Even by the low standards of economists that was bad. 

          The price is supposed to be high in Davis. I’m not sure what the problem is. Sushi is more expensive than pizza. What is the problem?

        8. Richard McCann

          We have lots of housing structures that are suitable for families and other housing arrangements. The problem is that STUDENTS have come to dominate renting in those housing structures. By providing students with housing structures that are more appropriate to their transient lifestyles, that frees up those other housing units (duplexes, multi bedroom apartments, etc) for OTHER housing arrangements (e.g., families). We do not need to directly build certain types of housing if it already exists but is being used inappropriately. So that’s why focusing on STUDENT housing gets us closer to the goal of better housing for ALL.

        9. Craig Ross

          “The price is supposed to be high in Davis. I’m not sure what the problem is. ”

          Jim Hoch gets proven wrong on the plenty of supply issue, but undeterred he continues to post as though he knows what he’s talking about.  The problem is we have too many students and not enough beds.  Oooh.  Deep.  But somehow going over your head.

        10. Rik Keller

          Skyrocketing enrollment rates at UC Davis–especially since 2010–that are many times greater than California, Sacramento region, and Davis housing growth rates (all of which, by the way, are around 0.5% per year) have put inordinate pressure on rental market in Davis. The City has been extremely slow to react to this and hold UCD accountable for providing its fair share of student housing.

          It appears that things are changing positively with the LRDP MOU discussions, but I still question the process by which they were arrived at, and the details of the agreements that have been made and the actual enforcement mechanisms.

  2. Craig Ross

    “Why haven’t final plans been approved, for Orchard Park (on campus)?”

    Start with this – your housing solution is premised on a very incompetent university providing a good portion of it.   Never made sense to me.  Add to that, the university is being sued.

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