At the Davis City Council Meeting on Tuesday, August 18, a 3-2 vote approved the University Commons Proposal. We, the undersigned faith leaders, express our disappointment at this decision. While we are encouraged by Brixmor’s increase from 0% to 5% affordable housing at the 80% median income for Yolo County, we also contend that this is not enough.
While the specific decision regarding the University Commons is the spark to this conversation, the housing crisis in Davis and across our state does not begin and end with this decision.
As faith leaders in the Davis community, we have the opportunity to engage with individuals from many walks of life, ministering with people of diverse economic, racial, generational, and educational backgrounds.
The ongoing problem of housing insecurity affects many Davis residents—students and families alike—from accessibility to affordability. This lack of affordable housing is not an isolated issue but has cascading consequences, leading to greater food insecurity, negative physical and mental health outcomes, decreased academic performance, and increased risk of other harms. The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic recession have done nothing but further exacerbate these realities for many low-income students and families.
In the August 20 Davis Vanguard Morning News, David Greenwald published his commentary on our letter to the Davis City Council in preparation for Tuesday’s meeting. He offered his critique that demanding more from our city leaders with regard to affordable housing is equivalent to “squeezing blood out of a turnip” – after all, 5% has already been committed. However, we offer an alternative narrative. Can we imagine a city guided by moral imagination, where we privilege the voices and experience of all Davis residents over the profit margins of developers and corporations? Let us live into the hope of a future where affordable housing is more than a compromise, but a testament to a city committed to inclusivity and equality.
Here’s what we’re asking: that the City Council pause and allow time to reconsider their vote before moving any further with this project due to the unaffordability of the rental of beds or units, including the “affordable units.” Moving forward, we affirm our previous commitment: to continue as partners in shaping a model city that overcomes the racial and economic injustices that plague our land, and creates opportunities for all people to thrive.
The Rev. Dr. Brandon Austin, Pastor, Davis United Methodist Church
The Rev. Beth Banks, Senior Minister UU Church of Davis
Rabbi Seth Castleman, Davis
The Dr. Pamela Dolan, Rector of the Episcopal Church of St. Martin
The Rev. Casey Kloehn Dunsworth, The Belfry Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry
Hamza El-Nakhal, Muslim Davis Engagement and Interfaith Network (DEIN)
The Rev. Dr. Eunbee Ham, Pastor, Davis Community Church
Anne Kjemtrup, Muslim Davis Engagement and Interfaith Network (DEIN)
The Rev. Dr. Chris Neufeld-Erdman, Pastor, Davis Community Church
Sara Tillema, Director and Campus Minister of Cal Aggie Christian Association (CA House)
Rabbi Greg Wolfe, Congregation Bet Haverim, Davis