With extremely limited on-campus housing at UC Davis, the Office of Student Housing keeps an eye on the local rental market. Student Housing’s 33rd annual survey of the state of the rental market was released late last month.
In the city of Davis, the vacancy rate increased slightly from 0.7 to 0.8 percent and the average cost of rent increased 4.36 percent in 2008.
“We think it’s really important to have this information just to continue to have a pulse on what’s going on in the community,” said Student Housing director Emily Galindo.
The survey covers apartment complexes with five or more rental units in Davis. Of 187 complexes contacted, 162 replied. The survey found that of a total of 8,469 units reported, 67 were vacant.
The survey is conducted each year to show what students face when searching for apartments in Davis, she said, noting that the low vacancy rate can be a disadvantage to students.
“It is not so much the percentage,” she said. “We are concerned about affordability for students.“
Galindo said a low vacancy rate could allow apartment owners to raise their prices beyond a fair level.
According to the survey, economists and planners typically regard a vacancy rate of 5 percent as ideal.
Galindo said the low vacancy rate coupled with increasing prices illustrates a need for more affordable housing options.
“I think what it does is confirm our plans to build more housing,” she said. “There continues to be a need for affordable student housing.“
Two campus housing projects are currently in the works. Construction should begin in March on an expansion of the Tercero dorms, which is expected to add 600 beds by fall 2010. She also said the results reinforce the need for the planned West Village mixed-use district.
“The university has invested a lot in the plan for West Village,” she said. “Based on these results it will be a win-win for the campus and the city.“
Don Saylor, Davis‘ mayor pro-tem, said the survey results show a need for more affordable housing. He said Davis needs to focus on affordable housing for students, working families and the elderly.
“The reality of this rental vacancy survey is that there is definitely a need for housing for specific populations that we must address,” Saylor said. “We have to work to do this together.“
The city of Davis is currently working on a new general plan, but there are not any specific plans to expand housing options specifically for students in the city.
“I think we need to consider student housing as part of the next plan,” he said.
Despite the low vacancy rate, many students said they have not had trouble finding housing. Clay DeLong, a junior environmental biology and management major, rented an apartment during his second year. He said research helped him find what he was looking for.
“I didn’t think it was difficult at all,” he said. “I looked on [daviswiki.org] to see how they were reviewed and picked the second place we went to.“
Still, affordability is an important issue for many. Ellie Storer, a sophomore psychology major, said more housing would be good as long as it is affordable. She said she was organized in finding the apartment she currently rents.
“I feel like we looked really early,” she said. “I wanted to find something cheaper.“
Saylor and Galindo both said growing numbers of students enrolled at UC Davis could make the situation more difficult in years to come. According to the survey, student housing hopes this information will help prevent that.
ELYSSA THOME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org