Bill to Make Student Housing More Affordable Passes Committee

Alisha Hacker pictured speaking in 2018 on Lincoln40 – a Davis-based student housing project.

A bill that would make private student housing more affordable passed the Assembly Housing Committee on a bipartisan and unanimous vote, 8-0. It now heads to the Assembly Education Committee where it will be heard in the last week of April.

AB 1579 would ensure that student housing developments “do not have to pay unrelated school district impact fees.”  The sponsor, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, believes that this will save “millions of dollars in costs for student housing and help reduce the overall price on construction.”

UC Davis ASUCD Senator Alisha Hacker was one of the students who testified on Wednesday at the capital.  She told the Vanguard that Assemblymember Gabriel is the member where she grew up and she had previously interned in the Capitol.

Ms. Hacker has previously advocated and spoken out on the need for student housing in Davis.  They asked her if she could testify to explain student housing needs, and she agreed.

She said, “I spoke to the most stark statistics in Davis.  The fact that seven percent of UC Davis students have experienced homelessness.  Eighteen percent have been housing insecure.  That seven percent homelessness translates to about 2300 student and 18 percent is about 6000 students.

“I hit them with some of those numbers,” she said.  “I just reminded them that at the end of the day, when a student is facing housing insecurity they’re choosing between their ability to get an education, the ability to buy books, or provide a meal for themselves in order to pay the rent.”

Ms. Hacker stated, “Those things hinder their success in education in the long run.”

A number of recent reports, both in the form of studies and in the media, have pointed to students suffering from a serious shortage of student housing.  As the numbers of students who apply and are admitted increase, colleges have found themselves increasingly unable to supply housing sufficient to meet that demand.

“This directly leads to our students facing increased rates of homelessness and housing insecurity,” Assemblymember Gabriel’s material indicates.

A study released in 2016 reported by the LA Times, for example, found, “About one in 10 of California State University’s 460,000 students is homeless, and one in five doesn’t have steady access to enough food.”

Earlier this year, the San Jose Mercury News reported, “Nineteen percent of students attending California’s community college system have experienced homelessness in the last year, while 60 percent have experienced recent housing insecurity and 50 percent have struggled with food insecurity.”

Meanwhile, the Sacramento State News reported from a study from the Chancellor’s Office, that nearly 11 percent of CSU Students report being homeless – “sleeping in their car, on a friend’s couch, in a shelter, or outdoors – at least once last year, and 41.6 percent sometimes went hungry, with almost half describing their food security as low or very low.”

At Sacramento State, 12.6 percent of students who responded to the survey say they experienced homelessness at some time in their college careers, and just over 47 percent struggle with food insecurity.

This was according to another report, this time by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University’s College of Education in Philadelphia, which surveyed nearly 40,000 students at 57 community colleges during the fall semesters of 2016 and 2018.

The paper writes: “If the survey’s numbers are projected statewide, as many as 400,000 community college students could be homeless, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, lead author of the report. She said the study’s findings are consistent with prior reports.”

Assemblymember Gabriel’s office writes: “The vast majority of students unable to secure on-campus housing must compete in supply-constrained and high market value, off-campus rental environments. As housing and rental prices across the state go up, our students are forced to search for rooms at prices that are increasingly out of reach. This limits their housing options to overpriced, run-down, ‘preferential’, or overcrowded housing, often involving long commutes to and from campus.”

While the Assemblymember believes that the private sector “can help deliver critically needed student housing to serve public college and universities,” he believes that “land and construction costs, as well as certain impact fees restrict student housing production and its affordability.”

Alisha Hacker told the Vanguard that she believes this bill can help the situation in Davis.

“It would give a break to private housing developers who want to build specifically for student housing,” she said.  She believes that this could help primarily with higher density housing that is focused on students.  “It would prevent them from having to pay an additional education fee.

“I think in a city like this, it would spur more university-specific growth,” she said.

As the Assemblymember’s fact sheet puts it, “California’s college students deserve a safe space to live while they work to get their degree and advance their career and life opportunities. This bill will ensure these projects are cost-effective and that California remains an attractive market for the building of desperately needed student housing.”

—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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18 thoughts on “Bill to Make Student Housing More Affordable Passes Committee”

  1. Ron Oertel

    The sponsor, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, believes that this will save “millions of dollars in costs for student housing and help reduce the overall price on construction.”

    “Coincidentally”, costing local school districts the exact same amount. While simultaneously offering no assurance that developers would “pass on” the savings to renters.

      1. Craig Ross

        [Moderator: edited]
        ”Other types of specialty developments that do not house K-12 students do not have to pay residential rates of school district impact fees, such as senior housing or the replacement of preexisting housing. With no nexus between these fees and this type of development, these fees should not be levied on student housing projects, especially as they hinder and increase costs on urgently needed student housing”

        1. Alan Miller

          [Moderator: edited]

          I am more interested in the part that was edited out (most likely a personal attack) than a re-quote from the article with no context.

          I do not believe in housing restricted to a class of people.  Built to attract a class of people, yes, but not restricted to.  As soon as you do that, you get into bent markets.  Then workforce housing is discouraged — unintended consequences.  Senior housing or anything that is medically based is unique, of course, because of the need to provide services and therefore a need for a nucleus area nearby to accommodate service personnel.  Other than that, no.

        2. Craig Ross

          That’s not a quote from the article, it’s a quote from the bill.  (You obviously didn’t read either very closely).  I don’t know why the moderator edited my comment – it attacked no one.  Regardless, there is nothing in the language of the bill that would restrict housing to any group of people.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Craig:  “Regardless, there is nothing in the language of the bill that would restrict housing to any group of people.”

          Great – so there is no “student housing” in the city that would qualify for an exemption.  (Some have argued that the megadorms aren’t exclusively student housing.)

    1. Rik Keller

      Ron : For example, the bill language states ““College or university student housing facility” means a structure that will be used exclusively for undergraduate, graduate, or professional students enrolled full time at an institution of higher education accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges or the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.”

      And this is in the bill analysis: “The sponsor of this bill, AMCAL Multi-housing Inc. is building 260 units of housing for San Jose for college students. The housing is privately owned and designed like a college dorm, multiple bedrooms that face on to a shared living room and kitchen. The development was assessed a school fee of over $1.3 million. AMCAL paid the fee under protest but subsequently sued the school district arguing the fee study used to determine the rate residential units should be assessed for school fees did not consider the subclass of student housing. AMCAL argues that since the development would not be used to housing school district students and should not be subject to the school fee. The court decided against AMCAL and AMCAL is appealing the decision.”

      Is anyone talking about developing private dorms like this in Davis anyway?

      And yes, the idea that the developers will pass on cost savings is dubious. What would typically happen is that (depending on market demand elasticity, of course). the developer pockets the extra return and/or the land prices increase because of increased profitability of development.


      1. Rik Keller

        I haven’t found information on any affordability requirements for the AMCAL project referenced above. Not have I found anything about the developer proposing to reduce rents if the waiver for school fees is  granted. Anyone have any information on this?

        This description doesn’t say anything about affordable units and just uses the phrase “upscale”:

        “The new community will include an upscale, high-rise, mixed-use building that will offer furnished student housing to the students of SJSU.

        The Graduate will consist of one, 19-story, L-shaped, elevator-equipped high-rise building with student-oriented amenities. The top 17 floors will offer apartments, with building services and student amenities on the first three levels, and double-height ground floor retail.

        Most floor plans are designed to give students their own private bathroom, except for one four-bedroom floor plan that will include three baths.”

        1. Rik Keller

          And interestingly. the legislation would not even appear to apply to this building as it will not “exclusively” be used for students.

          From City of San Jose planning documents: “The intent of the building is to provide student housing for nearby San José State University. The 260 units would have a total of 1,039 beds. By law, there cannot, however, be restrictions on who may occupy the building. As such, the building may be rented by unit or by bed.”

  2. Jim Hoch

    “The sponsor, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, believes that this will save “millions of dollars in costs for student housing and help reduce the overall price on construction.””

    [Moderator: edited] Lower costs do not mean lower prices. People price based on what the market will bear. Lower costs just mean higher profits.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Rik:  “Is anyone talking about developing private dorms like this in Davis anyway?”

    I’m guessing that your statement was made “in jest”, as you noted in your quote which follows that statement:

    Rik:  “The housing is privately owned and designed like a college dorm, multiple bedrooms that face on to a shared living room and kitchen.”

    The following quote also seems to support the possibility that the recently-approved “megadorms” in the city might meet the definition regarding the type of developments which could be exempt from paying school district impact fees:

    Text from proposed bill, below:

    “(b) Today’s modern college and university student housing facilities contain units consisting of two or more bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, a common area, and frequently contain cooking facilities.”

    The proposed bill also describes (and “attempts” to address) complexities which can occur if families occupy some of the units.

    1. Rik Keller

      Ron: Looking at who is behind this and the nature of their actual development, it seems that a better headline would have been:

      Bill to Increase Profitability of Youth-Oriented Luxury Towers Passes Committee

      1. Ron Oertel


        As usual, thanks for the background research you presented, regarding this issue.

        The first thing one should ask is who is sponsoring/behind a given, proposed bill.  (A much more interesting starting point for an article.)

        In any case, I hope that the Davis school district does not experience the same challenge as the example you presented above, in regard to approval of local “megadorms” (or even new “minidorms”, for that matter).

  4. Jim Hoch

    Just had a chance to look it up. Most people who are familiar with the venal nature  will not be surprised to learn that this bill is a giveaway to AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc.

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