Legislature Overwhelming Passes Density Housing for College Students Bill, SB 290

Photo courtesy Senator Skinner’s office

The Vanguard Staff

Sacramento, CA – California’s housing crisis is especially acute among college students. During the past decade, the number of California college students who have experienced homelessness has soared by nearly 50%, according to a 2020 report by the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools.

Today, one in five California community college students are unsheltered. For CSU students, it’s one in 10, and for UC, one in 20 UC students are experiencing homelessness.

On Monday, the state Senate overwhelmingly approved SB 290 on a 32-4 vote giving bipartisan appval to the bill sponsored by Senator Nancy Skinner.  SB 290 will update the state’s density bonus law to support more affordable housing, particularly for low-income college students.

Previously the Assembly approved the bill on a 66-1 vote and it will now head to Governor Newsom for his signature.

“California has a massive housing shortage; the lack of affordable housing, in particular, is deepening our homelessness crisis and forcing many college students to live in vehicles or resort to couch surfing,” said Sen. Skinner, D-Berkeley. “Thousands of California students are returning to classes this fall with no place to live. SB 290 will provide more incentives for housing developers to build affordable units, especially for low-income college students.”

According to the California Housing Partnership, the state currently has an estimated 1.2 million-unit shortfall of affordable rental units. Four out of five extremely low-income households pay over half of their income on rent, as do nearly half of very low-income households.

SB 290 builds on a 2018 law by Sen. Skinner, SB 1227. That legislation expanded California’s density bonus law, which allows housing developers to build larger projects if they include affordable units, to include housing for college students. Specifically, SB 1227 requires cities and counties to grant a density bonus to housing projects when at least 20% of the total units are set aside for lower-income students.

However, even with SB 1227, California’s density bonus law remains underutilized. According to UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation, less than half of California cities and counties have had a development project that used a density bonus, and most jurisdictions have had only one or two projects.

SB 290 is designed to expand the use of the density bonus law in order to create more affordable housing by providing further incentives to developers who build affordable units for low-income college students. It also streamlines the local approval process for density bonus housing projects and includes incentives for developers to build more for-sale housing for moderate-income Californians.

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22 Comments

    1. Bill Marshall

      It is interesting… wonder if the legis. will give ‘bonus funding’ to UC’s, CSU’s who densify… as usual, they direct locals to give density bonuses, with no funding incentives attached… zoning/density bonuses don’t built housing… $$$ builds housing.  Density bonuses increase impacts/costs to the local entities… zero offsets as to funding those.

  1. Matt Williams

    Sounds like the Legislature is giving Governor Newsom a clear signal on how to use some of the $70 billion Budget surplus.  Funding the building of more on-campus housing, which can be offered at below-Market monthly rents (making them affordable) would be the fastest route toward effectively making this bill not just words, but action.

    1. Ron Glick

      You need to look at how those additional 300o beds at West Village were financed. Ground lease from UC to Affordable housing company who floated Muni’s. The entire thing was funded on credit provided by the loose money policies of the Fed.

      UC can do this until interest rates go up.

      1. Matt Williams

        Ron, the bottom-line on David’s article earlier this week on Lincoln 40 was that the developers were able to build their project for 25% less than is being done at West Village.  I suggested to him (in a text) that UCD should quickly contract the Lincoln 40 developer to build a project on campus.  With the additional benefit of the cheap money you describe, they might be able to complete their project even more inexpensively.

        1. Bill Marshall

          Except for Davis-Bacon.

          UCD, like the City, needs to insist on ‘prevailing  (i.e. “union”) wages’.  Lincoln40/Ryder did/does not have that constraint.

          No work-around that has not failed in Court… and the unions watch that like hawks.

        1. Keith Y Echols

          It incentivizes private development of affordable housing; it makes the potential return on an affordable housing development more profitable by making cities approve more units for affordable housing projects.  Tie that with SB 35 which allows infill affordable housing projects to go through ministerial approval (for the most part uncontested) and California is really pushing affordable housing solutions.

           

  2. Alan Miller

    California’s housing crisis is especially acute among college students.

    Is it?  “Acute”, compared to whom?

    During the past decade, the number of California college students who have experienced homelessness has soared by nearly 50%,

    And yet still no one can tell me which Safeway parking lot is filled with college students living in cars.  Cowell or Covell!  Cowell or Covell!

    for UC, one in 20 UC students are experiencing homelessness.

    So for UC Davis, if it follows the pattern (and it surely does given our vacancy rate and rental rates), 1750 (“One Thousand, Seven Hundred and Fifty“) UCD students are homeless.  Not ‘housing insecure’, but homeless.

    As the total number of homeless people in Davis in 2019 was estimated at One Hundred and Ninety, it appears there are nine times more homeless UCD students than there are total homeless people in the city.

    Why do so many progressives believe that exaggerating statistics (lying) helps their (sometimes worthy) cause?

    I’m heading out to BOTH Safeways tonight to get a head count  😐

    1. Keith Olsen

      As the total number of homeless people in Davis in 2019 was estimated at One Hundred and Ninety, it appears there are nine times more homeless UCD students than there are total homeless people in the city.

      Alan, that’s what Davisites are led to believe anyway.

      I don’t believe it either.

       

      1. Matt Williams

        It is all in the way you count.  The 190 that Alan referenced are probably homeless close to 365 days a year.  All the 1,750 have to do to qualify is to not have a primary residence location one day in the year.  But as I pointed out below, even that criteria is particularly “loose.”

        1. Keith Olsen

           All the 1,750 have to do to qualify is to not have a primary residence location one day in the year.  But as I pointed out below, even that criteria is particularly “loose.”

          Just goes to show you how the numbers can be easily manipulated.  Also, is someone sleeping on a friend’s couch also considered homeless?  If that’s the case just about everyone sleeps on a friend’s couch at some point during the year.

        2. Matt Williams

          Also, is someone sleeping on a friend’s couch also considered homeless?

          Yes.  If the survey separates “housing insecure” form “homeless” a one night sleeping on a friend’s couch probably falls in the “housing insecure” category, but if there is only one category … “homeless” … then “yes.”

          Of course the category of “sleeping it off” on a friend’s couch is a different story.

  3. Matt Williams

    Oneof my minor quibbles with the student homelessness data is the way they determine the homelessness status of any individual student.  First, they look at the whole school year and ask whether “at any time during that period the student experienced any of the following …”

    Using that qualification method, I would have qualified as homeless all four years of my college education.  The reason was simple.  Each year over the December-January break, I and my girlfriend chose not to go home to see our respective parents.  The first year the dormitory was closed during the Holiday break, so I stayed with friends.  The second and third years the same was true, but my closed for the holiday living space was my fraternity.  The fourth year I was living in a house on the shore of Lake Cayuga with three other students, and on Christmas Eve the house burned to the ground. All of us got out safely, but we had to find another house to rent, or other accommodations.  As it turns out, we did find another house to rent, which would almost surely not be the case here in Davis if our house burned down.

    Of those four years, I certainly didn’t feel homeless any of the first three, and really didn’t despite the circumstances in the fourth year, but according to the survey criteria, in their eyes I was homeless all four years. Bottom-line, the criteria create artificially high statistics of student homelessness.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ah, yes, the numbers go to “how was the question asked?”, compounded by “figures don’t lie, but liars can figure”.  Am sympathetic, yet skeptical.

      Another “game” that occurs… some students work with their well-to-do parents, to claim ‘no parental support, no $$$, no job’ to qualify for financial aid. Which works against those where it is actually true…

      1. Matt Williams

        Frequently the parents didn’t get to be well-to-do by avoiding gaming the system … in their own lives.  Passing that unsavory trait on to their children is not a surprise.

  4. Alan Miller

    They did not say “have experienced housing insecurity in the last year”.  They said “one in 20 UC students are experiencing homelessness”.   Had it been the former, I would have noted the holes in the term ‘housing insecurity’ as with the discussion.  As worded 5% of UC students are less a home, present tense, as in — right now.  If the authors meant to say housing insecure, don’t say homeless.

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