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Cary Anne explained, “Listings were outdated.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