Commentary: What Does Workforce and Family Housing Look Like? How Can We Address Affordable Housing?

By David M. Greenwald

Pop quiz—if you are a family with two kids, a boy and a girl, how many bedrooms do you need?  The answer that most people understand is three.  You really are not supposed to have siblings of opposite genders cohabitate in the same bedroom after a certain point.

My family of five, with three kids, has been stuffed into a three-bedroom, but really we need four bedrooms.  When I was growing up, three kids was pretty common and I had many friends who lived in families of four and even five children.

Even with one child, you are realistically looking at a two-bedroom.

You can point to stats like only 40 percent of married couples have kids these days, but the flip side is that 35 percent of families with children are not married.

I make this point because there were complaints that Plaza 2555 was basically just a scaled down mega-dorm.

In an email that went out from Eileen Samitz, for example, she said, “The Plaza 2555 project proposal is another charade for yet another group housing mega-dorm, with the slight variation of having a glut of 3-bedroom apartments instead of 4- and 5-bedroom apartments.”

There is a legitimate point to be made here—the unit mix for Plaza 2555 is definitely odd.  They have just five micro-units and five one-bedroom apartments.  I am not sure why they decided on that mix.  But overall they greatly dropped the number of bedrooms from 646 in the original proposal down to 500.

Micro- and one-bedroom apartments would perhaps have attracted couples without children and unmarried workers.  The current mix could attract families.

But it’s tricky, as I have pointed out.  These are unit rentals, but even market rate unit rentals are expensive for families.  As short-term housing for people who have moved to Davis to work, these apartments are perhaps convenient—close to campus, close to the University Research Park.

The council has approved some workforce housing—at Chiles Apartments and the University Research Park Mixed-Use.  There is another small housing project proposed for Olive Drive.

The voters appear to have turned down DISC with its 850 units of workforce housing.  Perhaps the best location for workforce housing could be the downtown, if we can make the financing work for redevelopment.

However, for longer term housing for families, if we are serious about demographic trends, projects like Plaza 2555 are probably not where it’s at.  While families can live in apartments if they are of sufficient size, the economics run against apartment rentals if it can be avoided.  A three-bedroom apartment for market rate in Davis is probably going to run over $2000 per month.  You can rent a house or even pay mortgage on a house for about that much elsewhere.

Apartments are not great for families as they lack yard space and safe play areas for kids—so if we are serious about family housing, we need to look at subsidized housing, townhouses, and small single-family homes.  For the most part, that is going to require peripheral housing developments, which will require Measure J votes.

Plaza 2555 really illustrates just how difficult it is to build housing in Davis.  We are already three years into the planning for it, and we are looking at perhaps two more years before it is ready to open.  That’s five years to build 200 units of apartments.

And they had to fight to get it approved.

Some on Tuesday argued that the affordable housing proposal is grossly inadequate.  It is true, they are only offering five percent of the apartments as affordable.  But, as always, there are tradeoffs here.

I found the council comments very thoughtful on Tuesday.

Will Arnold saw great value in having the Yolo Crisis Nursery be able to use this property and stay in town, but he clearly wanted this as a one-off.

“If it weren’t for the opportunity I see here, I wouldn’t plan to support this,” Arnold said, noting “our affordable housing need is so great,” and he wanted to make it clear this was “not intended as part of our long term affordable housing strategy.”

Mayor Gloria Partida expressed concerns about the level of change to the ordinance in this proposed amendment.

“I would be much more comfortable if it was written in a different way,” she said. She is concerned that this includes services. She understands the need for flexibility in how the affordable requirement is provided. “Our affordable housing ordinance as it’s written now states that the council at its discretion can approve higher or lower percentages depending on if the project is small.”

She also said, “This is why I’m not a fan of these little projects because I think we could get more density.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Brett Lee’s comments acknowledged “we have a lot of unmet needs” and “limited funds,” along with “limited funds that we can extract from the development proposals.”

He ultimately saw this as a place where kids who need a place to stay can do so.

Councilmember Dan Carson said, “There is a visible homelessness problem in this community and there is an invisible one. The invisible one relates mainly to women and children. They are couch surfing. They are out there. They are not so much on street corners and not so much in tents, but they are out there.”

He called “harmful” any comments that “diminish the value of this to addressing our homelessness issue in this community.”

Carson said, “At the end of the day, this is about protecting human life and the weakest and most vulnerable among us.”

Lucas Frerichs also echoed a lot of these comments as well.

First, I think it needs to be made clear that the Yolo Crisis Nursery provides key services to a key segment of the community.  Second, for those believing that the developer is getting away with something, they could easily dedicate the acre of land and having an affordable non-profit raise the money to build 20 or even 30 units of affordable housing at the same cost to the developers as this is costing them.

So they aren’t really pulling a fast one or getting away with something.  The question is really about best use.  Some people believe that it would be better to have 20 additional units of affordable housing than the Yolo Crisis Nursery.

That’s a judgment call and a tradeoff.

With that said, I have a lot of problems with that argument, however.  We just turned down DISC with 150 units of affordable housing.  We have seen many projects with affordable housing being opposed by various citizen groups.

Ultimately, we get affordable housing by building market rate housing projects—as affordable housing these days is largely tethered to market rate projects.

We make these market rate projects difficult to pass, which makes them more expensive, and then we see people fight tooth and nail to increase the meager levels of affordable housing in these projects.

That is why, increasingly, I believe that we need to figure out how many affordable units we are going to build over the next eight years of the next housing element, and figure out the best way to distribute those among the anticipated projects—so that we don’t continually have to draw blood from a turnip and so we can allow some of these innovative proposals to be able to flourish.

—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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50 Comments

  1. Ron Glick

    “In an email that went out from Eileen Samitz for example, she said, ‘The Plaza 2555 project proposal is another charade for yet another group housing mega-dorm, with the slight variation of having a glut of 3-bedroom apartments instead of 4- and 5-bedroom apartments.’”

    I believe this marks the third different argument Samitz has made against this project. Could it be she simply is against new housing for people and will use any argument she can think of to oppose it.

    1. Tia Will

      Ron

      Or could it be that Eileen firmly believes in the validity of each of her objections? We will never know will we since we are not in Eileen’s head. Why does it seem to be seen as a good strategy to cast doubt on the sincerity of others rather than simply making one’s own opinion known?

    2. Don Shor

      Could it be she simply is against new housing for people and will use any argument she can think of to oppose it.

      Eileen endorsed WDAAC, and I think there have been other projects she has supported such as the housing expansion west of University Mall. She has generally opposed projects that appear to be primarily for students.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        Don,

        Thanks for pointing this out and to further clarify, I have consistently advocated for multi-family housing with a design that works for all, and not the mega dorm format which is group housing which does nothing to help with the need for workforce and family rental housing. Furthermore, mega dorms are exclusionary housing by design since they do not offer a design of apartments for anyone (i.e. including workers and families) to rent and benefit by.

        Further, these mega dorms have all been expensive, luxury student housing while, even the students have, instead, been advocating for rental housing that is affordable. But now the City has a glut of around 5,000 of these mega dorm beds which do nothing to help the need for rental housing needed by our workforce and families. The COVID pandemic which has created a much higher vacancy currently in the City, so it will be interesting to see what the vacancy rate becomes, particularly within these mega dorms when they are built.

  2. Ron Glick

    “My family of five, with three kids has been stuffed into a three bedroom, but really we need a four bedroom.”

    Your family suffers from the housing policies you have argued to maintain.

  3. Alan Miller

    So much hypocrisy, denial of economic realities and unicorn riding, so little time.

    • Affordable housing as described is subsidized housing.  It is a form of welfare.  You can’t put money into people’s pocket’s without shifting the demand and supply curve.  You put a few low income people in A-fordable housing and you lock out the same number of people who are probably low-wage working class who now can’t live in those same units.  All you’ve done is shift who on the low-earning end who can live here down a few notches, while the others still need to commute.

    • You cite the need for Measure J housing, yet recent project with housing just failed and nothing is on the horizon.  Thus, any such housing is many, many years away at best.  With another JeRkeD failure in Measure B, developers will be even less likely to take the risk.  Yet you and the vast majority of Davisites continue to support JeRkeD to the level that it will never be taken down.  This assures permanently high-cost housing in Davis with no hope.  However, property owners, who tend to be the majority of voters, get value added to the worth of their land, through artificial scarcity.

    • You promote density for housing, but yards for families (which will require you admit massive approvals of peripheral land with low-density housing).  You thus have created a perpetually not solved problem, always a decade in the future with little assurance it will even be passed, and thus very little incentive to build.

    • YCN is a “feel good” non-profit (it’s for the children).  So easy to approve for a government elected body.  Who, but Alan C. Miller, is going to say anything against “the children”?  No need to evaluate if this is a best use for the land, but it sure sounds like the Council and the developer are doing a great thing.  Spin it so that anyone questioning the use of the land is “anti-infant” and lock in the entire development.

    • Because you (and most everyone else) ignores the reality of economic effects, you have created an unsolvable problem with a timeline of infinity.   This creates the ability to have a blog that repeats the same arguments over and over forever, and a problem that will surpass the lifetimes of all reading this blog and my comments.  Rent is an agreement between two parties and the amount in a market is based on what each party settles at because the other alternatives are scarce or plentiful.  The market balances this out.  When this is altered by subsidization, money is taken from everyone (that could go to rent) and given to groups that fall within the categories of the subsidy law, and a big chunk is taken for the created bureaucracy.  The more you do this, the more warped it all gets, and the problem itself never goes away but perpetuates.

    • Astonishingly, a student from UC Davis actually declared at the Housing Element meeting that “Davis should be affordable for everyone”.  Y’know she’s right.  … and I want to live in Beverly Hills. … and the drug-dealer who lives in the ditch that once flowed Putah Creek wants to live in Atherton. … and the cøckroach that lives under my stove wants to live in Malibu.  Atherton, Malibu and Beverly Hills should be affordable for everyone just like Davis.  And yet the Davis Vanguard supports Measures JeRkeD, which makes Davis a place for elite property owners and keeps housing stock limited to the elite and the subsidized.

    1. Tia Will

      The market balances this out. “

      Except it does not balance it out in a way that provides everyone with a place to live, now does it? The “free market” for housing has the same problem as the “free market” for health care. It simply does not exist. We can point our fingers in different directions to assign blame, but the fact remains…there is no free market when one party holds essentially all the power and the other has none.

       

      1. Alan Miller

        I’m not saying there’s a “free market”.  I’m saying the laws of economics (effects of policies) are as real as the laws of physics.  They are not a predicable in how they play out, but they do play out.

  4. Matt Williams

    Affordable housing as described is subsidized housing.  It is a form of welfare.  You can’t put money into people’s pocket’s without shifting the demand and supply curve.  You put a few low income people in A-fordable housing and you lock out the same number of people who are probably low-wage working class who now can’t live in those same units.  All you’ve done is shift who on the low-earning end who can live here down a few notches, while the others still need to commute.

    .
    Ron and David, how do you reply to Alan’s clear and concise argument?

    1. David Greenwald

      His argument is values-based and subjective.  It is the argument against government interference in the free market.  That’s fine.  But if you wish to enable more families or diverse groups into death – are basically two options – one is greatly increasing the supply, the other is to subsidize housing to avoid the market.  So affordable housing represents a compromise.

      1. Bill Marshall

        But if you wish to enable more families or diverse groups into death – are basically two options – one is greatly increasing the supply, the other is to subsidize housing to avoid the market.

        Wow… hadn’t realized that it had become a ‘death’ penalty issue… scary…

        1. Tia Will

          Bill

          Not so much in Davis, but in many areas of the country, being homeless without access to shelter can be a death sentence either from freezing or heat stroke. Just because we do not see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

      2. Matt Williams

        His argument is values-based and subjective.  It is the argument against government interference in the free market.  That’s fine.  But if you wish to enable more families or diverse groups into death – there are basically two options – one is greatly increasing the supply, the other is to subsidize housing to avoid the market.  So affordable housing represents a compromise.

        David, if I read Alan’s comment correctly he is very clearly saying that Affordable housing is subsidized housing … with the subsidy being paid by the people who rent the housing units that are not part of the Affordable housing program.  If that is a correct reading of Alan’s comment is it that affordable housing represents a compromise between subsidized housing and increased supply of housing?

        With that said, do you personally believe that increasing the supply of housing in Davis will actually achieve the goal of making housing in Davis affordable?

        1. Alan Miller

          A correct reading of my comments.  I should make the caveat that there are some affordable housing models, such as some Davis housing COOPs, that provide affordable literally housing without subsidy – but doing this on a mass scale seems to have limitations.  Also, some other literally affordable options are under threat, such as mobile home parks, because the land has become so valuable that it may be sold out from under residents – replaced with expensive apartments and a smidgen of subsidized affordable units, or maybe instead a non-profit for children.  I am very torn by this, as I believe in private property rights, but I am loath to destroy existing actually affordable housing even as doing so increases supply – in this case there is a true loss of truly affordable, replace with a smaller number of higher priced subsidized units.  Yuck.

          As far as “subsidizing housing to avoid the market”, that’s not real.  The market will be warped by any subsidy, there will be effects.   The rich and middle class will all still live here – it’s just some really low end will live here in place of the working poor, and with money pulled out of the system by all the bureaucracy – there may be a slight decrease in units built overall, or a delay of years if the money is placed in a ‘fund’ for future affordable housing – just making more units that don’t exist today.

        2. David Greenwald

          Matt – if you don’t believe you can lower prices through supply (which I think runs against conventional economic theory), it’s all the more incumbent to have subsidized housing to provide it for key segments.

  5. Tia Will

    I would like to take a step back and challenge two of the basic premises of this article.

    1.”You really are not supposed to have siblings of opposite genders cohabitate in the same bedroom after a certain point.”

    “Supposed to”. Really? Who sets the standard for what we are “supposed to” do within our own families? My ex-husband grew up in a family in which there were no bedrooms. There was a large living area, a separate kitchen, and outdoor bathroom. Who shared the living/sleeping space was not a matter of gender and only the parents “sleeping” area was draped off for privacy.

    2. You note your family of 3 children, one girl, and two boys as “needing” four bedrooms. I am wondering why. Having grown up in a two-bedroom home, one for our parents and one shared by my sister and me, I see having a separate bedroom for each individual as a want, not a need.

    I know our society has created a model in which everyone seems to feel the need for their own individual space. However, this is far from universal in the world, and given our current planetary challenges, I feel that we may soon be forced to acknowledge that this is a want, not a need, and learn to live more lightly in our homes.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      Tia – there are no laws against it, if you google it, you can read the health guidelines. Obviously poverty and necessity can and do make suboptimal arrangements a necessity.

      1. David Greenwald

        Add to this point Tia, when Cecilia was under the age of three, she lived with eight sibblings and her two parents in a one-room farmhouse. Obviously out of necessity. But I don’t think we should plan housing based on that experience.

        1. Ron Oertel

          she lived with eight siblings and her two parents in a one-room farmhouse. 

          But I don’t think we should plan housing based on that experience.

          Personally, I don’t think that parents should plan on having that experience, or expecting society to subsequently plan for and accommodate the results of that decision.

    2. Ron Oertel

      For what it’s worth, I understand that some cultures view “family privacy” in a complete different manner than our own. And, some maintain much closer family ties – presumably as a result of that difference.

      Our own society (and expectations) have changed, over the years. That’s one reason that the average new house size has increased, as family size has decreased. Seems that this trend will likely continue, as a result of permanent telecommuting.

      1. Alan Miller

        Seems that this trend will likely continue, as a result of permanent telecommuting.

        Then we can start tearing down all those silly office buildings, and replace them with homes with a couple extra rooms for offices.

    3. Matt Williams

      I agree wholeheartedly with Tia.  In addition my college alma mater appears to agree because many of its dormitories are co-educational.

      I woukld even go further and speculate that a substantial contributor to our housing affordability problem in Davis, California, and much of the United States is because the builders of new housing are thinking in terms of one person to each bedroom with the exception of the master bedroom (which often has the square footage of two regular bedrooms).  The cost of building a five bedroom house for two parents and four children is considerably more expensive than building a three bedroom house for two parents and four children.  Needless to say that three-bedroom house is more affordable than that five-bedroom house.

      We see the same thing play out with respect to bathrooms … especially in apartment complexes.  A four bedroom apartment with either one or two bathrooms is a whole lot less expensive to build than a four bedroom apartment with either four bathrooms.

  6. Ron Glick

    I think we should build more market rate housing and more government subsidized housing. We are so far behind the curve on housing supply that the price needle is pointing toward the sky. I think UC Davis should build subsidized housing for low income students.

    Most importantly, I think we need a paradigm shift in our policy mindset. We need to stop viewing students as a profit center who mortgage their futures, with easy to obtain but hard to discharge loans, while we pretend our policy decisions are benign.

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron G, I agree with much of your first paragraph.  The price needle is indeed pointing toward the sky, and that reality plus the timeline needed to plan, fund and build housing means the best we can do for the rest of the decade is minimize the steep rate of price increases.  Making market rate housing more affordable is an unattainable dream without what you have described as a “paradigm shift” and probably not attainable through market forces even if such a shift were to occur.

      Further, are you at all comfortable that there enough people with the financial where-with-all (down payment and income necessary to reasonably (a very subjective term) cross the threshold of ownership of one of the new homes?  Because of costs of land and costs of construction and financing costs, new housing will typically need to be sold at a price that is above the “market rate” average.  Why?  Because that market rate average is very heavily weighted on the downside by the prices of existing housing stock resales that don’t carry the burden of high costs of land and/or high costs of construction.

      So hoping that market forces will result in more affordability is very close to a pipe dream.

      20/20 Hindsight tells me that our nation missed an opportunity when the housing bubble burst.  Instead of repossessing all the properties that became upside down, and in the process liquidating the capital assets of many of the very same people that you are looking to help with current affordable housing efforts, figuring out ways to keep the homeowner  in the upside down house could have helped preserve their equity.  We have recently seen that same conumdrum play itself out in this COVID pandemic.  Some businesses have taken advantage of the PPP program (Paycheck Protection Program) to keep their employees on the payroll rather than laying those empoloyees off.  The clear advantage is that laid-off employees have a choice about whether to come back to work.  For the employer whose laid-off employees choose not to come back, institutional knowledge is lost and the costs of recruitment are not insignificant.  That reduces the efficiency and effectiveness and profitability of the business.

      The result has been what Biden referred to as the “K-shaped Recovery” where the rich get richert and the poor get poorer.

       

       

    2. Don Shor

       

      I think we should build more market rate housing and more government subsidized housing. We are so far behind the curve on housing supply that the price needle is pointing toward the sky. I think UC Davis should build subsidized housing for low income students.

      Exactly.

      Interesting to note that a new subdivision is underway on the southwest side of Dixon right now. Most of the homes are selling before they’re constructed.

  7. Matt Williams

    I think UC Davis should build subsidized housing for low income students.

    Here too you and I agree.  When looking at our current imbalance between housing demand and housing supply, it isn’t enough to simply look at supply, as you frequently do in your well-intentioned rants.  It is just as important to look, and understand, the drivers of housing demand. In Davis identifying and understanding those drivers is quite simple. The growth of UCD (enrollment, faculty, and support staff) has created the vast majority of the incremental housing demand. As a result (and this is where Regional Planning also comes in), the increase in housing demand should be matched with an incremental increase in housing supply provided by UCD … housing for students, housing for faculty, and housing for staff. When you look at the current cost of housing at Sterling and University Commons and Lincoln 40 in the City and compare it to the current cost of housing in West Village, the housing in West Village is actually cheaper than the housing at Sterling and University Commons and Lincoln 40. So the excuse that is used that building housing on the UCD campus isn’t supported by the data. So, here again the value of Regional Planning, with the City and UCD collaborating with Yolo County … and even Solano County for the areas on Old Davis Road south of the campus … is needed.

  8. Alan Miller

    Curious that no took on the notion of the student who commented that ‘everyone should be able to afford to live in Davis’.

    I would love to have an economist plot what it would take to actually achieve that, how much land, how many years, how much subsidy.

  9. Eileen Samitz

    Well, I am sorry to see more mischaracterizations and unwarranted assumptions by Ron G.  He quoted one of the more detailed sentences in my email to the Council, cherry picking that one sentence, while completely ignoring the rest of the email and the major concerns that my e-mail raised about the Plaza 2555 issue.

    To be clear (rather than be mischaracterized), my major concern was were why are there only 5 micro/studio units, and only 5 one-bedroom units in a 200-unit complex? Similarly, why is there an abundance of 109 three-bedrooms?  That has every appearance of targeting group housing.  I have no issue with 81 two-bedroom units, since I know there is a large demand for them with workers.

    Studies of the Davis rental market have time and again reported high demand and under supply of micro/studios and one-bedroom units.  So, my issue is, why aren’t more micro/studio apts. being included and fewer of the three-bedrooms apartments that appear to be targeting “group housing”?

    The reasoning offered by developer John Ott’s representative was that the abundance of three-bedroom apartments to make the project “family oriented.”  However, they weren’t willing to commit to a prohibition of rent-by-the-bed, and their proposed rents of $1,000 – $1,200 per bedroom.  Most families looking for rental housing cannot afford $3,000 -$3,600 monthly for a 3-bedroom apartment, and the history of rent-by-the-bed in Davis has resulted in rents that are 30% to 50% higher than rent-by-the-unit rents.  That is not “family oriented.” Rent- by-the-bed is a student housing model.

    So, I hope that mischaracterization of my position on this issue will stop. I opposed the apartment mix of this project and opposed making this yet another version of a mega-dorm.  Mega dorms do nothing to help us with the need for housing for either our workforce or our young families.  Mega dorms do nothing to help us with affordable housing. It is a shame that we wound up with only 10 units versus the 30 affordable housing units that this project should have provided, in addition to the 1-acre dedication site for the Yolo Crisis Nursery.

    Further, sadly, the City has kicked-the-can-down-the-road again, by exempting even more affordable housing with this Plaza project like the previous six mega-dorms.  Unfortunately, we currently get NO RHNA fair for any of the mega-dorm units because they are considered to be “group housing.”. How is the City supposed to provide the more than 900 housing units for affordable housing within the upcoming 8-year RHNA timeline?

    1. David Greenwald

      ” I opposed the apartment mix of this project and opposed making this yet another version of a mega-dorm. Mega dorms do nothing to help us with the need for housing for either our workforce or our young families. ”

      I guess I’m confused here still. The point I was trying to make is that a young family – if they have kids is going to use a 2 to 3 bedroom apartment not a studio or one bedroom.

      1. Matt Williams

        David, I can’t (and won’t try to) speak for Eileen, but the issue for me is not specifically the size of the units.  I buy Gloria’s argument that there is a housing need for families, and that the availability of more thee-bedroom apartments has the potential to address that need.  My issue is that adding a 30% to 50% premium to the monthly rent is a huge financial barrier that significantly reduces the chances that families will live in the three-bedroom apartments.  The rent for a three-bedroom jumps up from the projected $3,000 to $3,600 per month to a projected $3,900 to $5,400.  If $5,400 is going to be only 30% of the family’s earnings, then that family needs to be making $18,000 per month, which is $216,000 per year.  Is that realistic?

        At $3,600 per month that family needs to be making only $144,000 per year to have the rent be 30% of their earnings.  Much more doable than $216,000.

        At $3,000 per month the $144,000 drops down to $120,000.

        And if the three-bedroom were to be part of an Affordable unit program, the monthly rent would drop to well below $3,000.

        That is my problem with the Council caving on the pushback they got from the developer’s representative on a prohibition on rent-by-the-bed.  They never called the developer’s bluff.

  10. Eileen Samitz

    David,

    My point is that the cost of the new construction of these 3-bedroom apartments will make them unaffordable to average families. If a family needs 3 or more bedrooms, they are going to rent a house which would be significantly lower in rent and would have the benefit of a yard for kids.

    The claim by the developer John Ott that the over-abundance of 3-bedroom apartments was geared toward families was totally disingenuous. This was revealed when he refused to agree to not rent by the bed at Plaza 2555 as he was asked to by Council member Lee and  numerous other public commenters testifying and in letters to the Council on this important issue.

    So, in the end Plaza 2555 is just another version of a mega dorm, with the single benefit of the Yolo Crisis Nursery to have a permanent site. Plaza 2555 will provide a mere 10 units of affordable housing (i.e. only 5% instead of 15% usually required which would have been 30 units) and the developer tried to get away with dedicating the only 5 micro/studio apartments and and the only 5 1-bedroom apartments included in the project for the affordable requirement. That revealed the developers objective to use the least amount of square footage for affordable housing, but it also would have left no market rate units of these smaller-sized units which are needed by workers.

    The Social Services recognized this stunt by the developer and pushed him to instead provide at least three 2-bedroom apartments instead of just the smallest apartments with only one bedroom. The reality is there is a major need for affordable housing for 2-bedrooms and 3-bedrooms for families. Therefore, all of the Plaza 2555 affordable units should have been more than one bedroom, but that is not what we got.

     

     

    1. Eric Gelber

      So, in the end Plaza 2555 is just another version of a mega dorm . . .

      So, I guess I’m unclear as to the definition of a mega dorm. My understanding is that it involves separate bathrooms for each bedroom, for example. That’s not the case with Plaza 2555. Whether rented by the bed or not, any apartment can achieve the same end if, for example, two or more students rent as co-tenants, or if one tenant rents out a bedroom to a lodger. Seems to me Plaza 2555 can be criticized based on the mix of apartment sizes; but, regardless, it’s not accurate to equate it to a mega dorm. If I’m wrong, please enlighten me.

      1. Eileen Samitz

        Eric,

        Why is Plaza 2555 a mega dorm (but just a new version)?

        1)  the Plaza 2555 developer is allowed to “rent-by-the-bed” for at least half of the project;

        2) the Plaza 2555 project may have a bathroom per bedroom;

        3) the Plaza 2555 project may have a lock per bedroom;

        4) the Plaza 2555 project has an overabundance of 3-bedroom apartments (55%), most of which are very likely to be rented by-the-bed;

        5) the Plaza 2555 project basically, has no micro/studio  apartments, nor 1-bedroom apartments which are needed for our workforce in particular. Instead, Plaza 2555 brings a glut (55%) of 3-bedroom apartments of which the developer will be renting-by-the-bed to yield the most profit. However, this does not help to relieve the housing needs in Davis for our workforce and families.

         

        1. Bill Marshall

          Am guessing, Eileen, you have a significant problem with “permissive” language… should it all be “prohibitive”, or “mandatory”?  [Your points, 1-3]

          Back ~45 years ago, if we wanted to have a locked door to our apt. bedroom, we could have (“permissive”)… we’c have to pay for it, and remove it @ end of lease term, but it was “permissive”.

          Lived in 2 apts, as a student… as did spouse (4, in her case)… mine had 2 bdr, one or two full bath… hers had 2 bdrm, 1 Ba… all had 4 students…

          In the dorms, there were 60 folk (2/room) with two big bathrooms… for the guys, 4 showers, 1 bathtub, 4 sinks/floor (30 guys)…

          So, am not getting the concept of “mega-dorms”… or is it just a useful ‘phrase’ to disparage/oppose any new population growth?

        2. Ron Glick

          When I moved back to Davis after a short posting elsewhere in the mid-nineties I rented a one bedroom apartment that had two bedrooms in it. The landlord locked the second bedroom as each room had its own door lock. I paid the rent for a one bedroom apartment. I thought it was a fair solution that saved me lots of money.

          A three bedroom apartment can easily be scaled down to two bedrooms if each room has its own lock. Much harder to scale up the other way.

  11. Ron Glick

    “Mega dorms do nothing to help us with the need for housing for either our workforce or our young families.”

    This is only true if you believe that the housing market is segmented into tranches. In reality,  adding supply of any type reduces demand pressure on all types.

  12. Ron Glick

    “Well, I am sorry to see more mischaracterizations and unwarranted assumptions by Ron G.  He quoted one of the more detailed sentences in my email to the Council, cherry picking that one sentence, while completely ignoring the rest of the email and the major concerns that my e-mail raised about the Plaza 2555 issue.”

    Cherry picking is usually when you cite a fragment not “One of the more detailed sentences.” Of course It was all I had to go on, quoting in full, what was available from the article.

  13. Ron Glick

    Rent by the bed is good for renters who don’t want to take on the liability of signing a lease that obligates them should a roommate leave them holding the bag. I think its an excellent way for students to limit liabilities. As far as I can figure the only reason to be against it is to discriminate against student renters.

     

    1. Matt Williams

      Ron, there is a fundamental flaw with the rent-by-the-bed model … specifically, the only people who benefit from the rent-by-the-bed rent rates, which are 30% to 50% above market rate rents for like units, are students.  A much better model would be to offer optional “rent protection” insurance with each unit.  Students would have the option to opt-in to the insurance with its added cost, while keeping the market rate of the rent unchanged for anyone renting that unit.

      That opt-in insurance approach would be far superior to the universal mandate that exists in the current program.

      1. Alan Miller

        MW, only because they are popular as an option and scarce.  I’ve been in the ‘holding the bag’ mode when a roomie student moved out, calling their parents, and the rest of use calling ours to make up the difference.  It’s common and not fun.  No one has to take 30-50% higher, but it’s an option.  If there were more of them, they’d be cheaper – maybe still above ‘market’ as you put it, but cheaper.  Actually, if they are expensive and not the same, they are at market for the product.  What you really mean is that they are more expensive than a traditional apartment.  I would have considered the option when I was a student, where it available.  I sort of did “by the bed” one year after a roommate got mildly violent with me (pushed me over in otherwise verbal fight) — I took all my belongings out of the common area, put them in my room, and installed a lock on my bedroom door.

        1. Bill Marshall

          I was lucky, I guess, Alan… your experiences with ‘flakes’, economically or ‘personal etiquette’, fall outside my experiences (at least as to ‘roomies’)… sounds like you did what was needful, and ‘survived to tell the tale’, which is quite helpful, as to the topic…

          To every ‘solution’ (rent by unit/rent by bed), there is at least a ‘potential problem’…

          I also see workforce and family housing as Venn diagrams… not the same, but definitely can overlap… same as to “affordability”… to complicate it, the notion/definition of “family” varies… more circles for the V diagram…

          You bring up points that should be part of a rational discussion…  thanks…

        2. Matt Williams

          Alan, when I was renting in the Davis Manor neighborhood in Davis in 2015 through 2017, I too found myself in the ‘holding the bag’ mode when a roomie student moved out.  Calling the student’s parents would have been futile.  I was old enough that calling my parents to make up the difference was also not an option, so I dug deep in my pockets and came up with my share of the departed roomie student’s monthly rent.  We three remaining roommates got into gear very quickly and paid for an advertisement, and within 30 days we had seven applicants for the available room.  That meant interviews of them all, and the responsibility for telling six of them that they had not been chosen.  So I agree wholeheartedly it is not fun.  I also agree it is common.

          It should be an option, but if the landlord only offers rent-by-the bed, it is the only option.

          What the lost roomie rent protection amounts to is an amenity.  And it is an amenity that is not meaningful with respect to affordability.  A typical family looking for affordable housing frequently sees little value in extra amenities, if any value at all.  One bathroom per bedroom is another perfect example.  Does a family with children that needs three bedrooms see any value in having a third bathroom in the unit?

          Amenities in new housing are frequently just an excuse to raise the price of the individual units.  It isn’t an oversimplification that “affordability” is measured almost completely in terms of price.  Amenities matter to a landlord/developer, but rarely to a family looking for affordability.

  14. Ron Glick

    “That opt-in insurance approach would be far superior to the universal mandate that exists in the current program.”

    You can insure anything.

    In your mind it is superior but it has a cost to someone who is likely of lessor means. Rent by the bed can save that same person of lessor means money as it shifts the liability for the group to the landlord.

    Rent by the bed provides flexibility to both landlords and renters. What seems odd to me is why people want to insert themselves into a contract between private parties? Again it seems the objections are discriminatory against students.

     

    1. David Greenwald

      I think Matt is overstating the additional cost of the rent by bed housing. First of all, we don’t have a lot of data on it. I looked at the rental survey data by UCD and it’s a little messy. Second, we’ll get a better idea with Sterling and when L40, Davis Live and Nishi come on line what the breakdown is. Third, it’s not an apples to apples comparison because there are additional costs baked into the rent by the bed because generally the landlords pay for electricity, cable, internet and pass those costs on rather than have the residents take out their own and divide it amongst themselves. That means there are additional costs baked into the RBB that are not there for RBU necessarily. Finally, there is the new apartment premium that new apartments rent for more than older and more run down ones.

      Bottom line, there might be an additional cost for renting by the bed, but don’t think it’s nearly as high as Matt suggests.

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