Citing declining residency, current budgetary issues and cost of upkeep, the department of Student Housing has decided to consolidate the Tri-Cooperative Housing program from three co-ops to two. The consolidation will take effect Aug. 1, 2010.
The Davis Student Cooperative (DSC) house will no longer be used as a residency and the program will continue through the Pierce and Agrarian Effort houses. Current residents were sent a letter in October informing them of the decision.
“The factors are primarily financial,” said Emily Galindo, director of student housing. “We’re showing that at the end of this year, they’ll have a significant deficit.”
Galindo said it takes a certain number of students to meet the necessary financial obligations, and that the number of residents has declined in recent years. Average occupancy of the Tri Co-Op Houses was 32 in 2005-2006; as of Oct. 1 of this year, that number is 22.
“As we look to the future and decide where we’re going to put our financial efforts, we had to make a real tough decision about whether we can continue to provide funding to something like this,” she said.
Former resident Derek Downey, a recent graduate and five-year resident of the co-ops, said there are just as many occupants as there used to be, and that the problem is with Student Housing’s records.
“The difference is that Student Housing changed their lease signing system and went online a few years ago,” Downey said. “Since then, it’s been extremely difficult to get all of the leases signed.”
Many residents have had issues with the online system, Downey said, but the Tri-Co-op is aware of how many people are living in the houses and has kept them filled.
“If we didn’t keep them filled, the rent would go up,” Downey said. “We pay the same fees regardless of how many people are in the house.”
Another factor in Student Housing’s evaluation of the co-op’s economic viability is a 15-year loan taken out two years ago for necessary maintenance of their facilities.
“They had to do some compliance with the American Disabilities Act, and put a ramp in one of the buildings to make it wheelchair accessible,” Galindo said.
Resident Sarah Raridon said the loan was for a few other things too, including general renovation.
“We had all these costs for things that should have been taken care of in the first place,” Raridon said. “They charged us thousands of dollars to put in a sprinkler system that was ‘mandated’ by the fire department, but it’s extremely extravagant.”
Galindo said that the Tri-Co-op is not at fault for anything, and that Student Housing is just looking down the road to make sure these loan payments are made.
“They haven’t failed to repay anything – it’s not a matter of that,” she said. “Looking at declining residency, and increased utility costs that we don’t have control over, we’re just looking ahead.”
Being self-supporting hasn’t helped Student Housing escape from the budget situation either. The department has had to take on additional responsibilities, and could consider using the closed co-op as administrative space.
“We’re looking for space for administrative offices, as we’ve had to take on orientation programs and oversight of fraternities and sororities, among other things,” Galindo said.
Downey called the planned closure extremely hurtful.
“It’s not only the first co-op started in Davis but DSC also led to the beginning of the Tri-Co-Op, which led to the food co-op and the farmers market,” he said. “Once they start closing down one co-op, why stop there, they could close down others if they have a precedent for it.
Galindo lauded the co-ops as pioneers for their efforts in sustainable practices, and that all of Student Housing had adopted their ideas.
“The co-operative has a wonderful mission for what it is they promote, and when they first came in to being, these things were very novel,” she said. “Today a lot of their initiatives are things we’ve adopted as simply the way they do business.”
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at email@example.com.