By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – A few years ago, the Vanguard did a series of analyses on on-campus housing versus off-campus housing for students. One thing that we clearly found is that it is much cheaper to live off-campus than on-campus.
The residence halls that we toured had extremely small personal space, but charged upwards of $1000 per month. But even the on-campus apartments were considerably more expensive than comparable housing off-campus.
Earlier this week, someone made the claim that “new housing on campus (in the form of The Greens) offered less-expensive rent than new housing in the city (Sterling), which is the opposite of what’s been claimed on this blog.”
However, the ensuing discussion demonstrated that the math behind that claim was mistaken.
The opposite is actually true when we look at the accurate math, and this illustrates the point we were making a few years ago. When you take into consideration that Sterling does not offer doubled up room options, is new private housing, and is among the most expensive in the city, the analysis bears out the point still that the private sector can meet housing demands for far less than the university.
For the fall it appears that there are two options available. One is a single room in a four-bedroom, four-bathroom apartment. That will run just over $1300 per month. For a similar room in a five bedroom, it’s slightly less at $1200.
When we look at Greens, it is considerably more expensive. When you look at the costs, they have the annual fee listed but that is simply three quarters, not the summer.
You can live in a shared room in a shared apartment for $1000 per month. That’s an option not available at Sterling. But for the same arrangement as at Sterling, it runs you a whopping $1541 per month. And for a studio, which means you have your own apartment, it runs you nearly $2250 per month.
The problem is that this is not necessarily an apples to apples comparison. The Greens costs are comparable with other UC Davis apartment costs, while Sterling, as we mentioned at the beginning is at the top end of the scale.
So let’s look at the University Housing Survey.
The average studio in 2020 would cost you $1229 per month. A one bedroom costs about $1498 per month. A two bedroom, $1909 per month. And a three bedroom $2610 per month. But the averages don’t tell the whole story, because there is a huge range in cost—you can still get some older singles for as low as $800 or $900 per month, and you can share two- to four-bedroom apartments and end up paying as low as $600 per month or less if you double up.
Those are for unit leases and you can see once you start adjusting the rent to the appropriate number of people or doubling up the rooms there, the price falls by a lot.
Not every student wants the cheapest price. Some would undoubtedly pay more for additional privacy.
In addition, when you look at the bed lease rates you see that, as you go up in size of the apartment, the bed lease rate drops from about $1300 in a one bedroom to $916 in a four bedroom.
The bottom line—the math is pretty clear. Sterling is actually less expensive than comparable on-campus housing. Sterling is at the top end of housing costs off-campus. And Sterling lacks options to double up and still is more cost effective than comparable on-campus housing.
Personally, I see advantages of both types of housing. One point that made a huge impression when I started talking with students groups about housing—most students want to eventually live off campus and be more part of the community. But many did say that having a second year option on campus was a good idea because of the tight turnaround from September of one’s freshman year to January when they have to lock up their housing.
I definitely support getting to 50 percent on-campus housing. Not every second year student wants to live on campus, but between international students who might benefit from it and some students who want to live on campus all three years, there is some advantage there.
At the same time, I keep hearing from the *adults* in the community how expensive the new housing is, and that was the point of this short piece. When these projects come up for approval at Planning Commission and at Council, the people complaining about costs of the housing or that it’s too expensive are almost never the students who actually rent, it’s usually the *adults*—many of whom haven’t rented in Davis in decades.
Student complaints are about the cost of rents going up—which they have. The 2020 rental rate was 2.2 percent higher than in 2019, which was 4.7 percent higher than 2018, which was 8.5 percent higher than 2017.
Students worry about several things—lack of supply, housing insecurity, the number of students who are without permanent housing and negligent landlords. Most believe that with additional supply and additional choices on their part, many of these concerns will be alleviated.
My personal belief is that by expanding supply we can do two primary things: (1) slow the increase in rental rates, and (2) get away from a 0.2 percent vacancy rate and toward a more healthy 5 percent.
It looks like Sterling is having no trouble filling for the fall—even though it is among the more expensive options off campus.
—David M. Greenwald reporting