UC Davis Housing Department survey reveals highest vacancy rate in years as pandemic creates housing uncertainty
On Feb. 3, the UC Davis Student Housing Department released its annual vacancy survey for 2020, which revealed some of the highest blended vacancy rates since 1992.
According to the survey, the Blended Vacancy Rate, or combined unit lease and bed lease vacancy rates for all rental units, is 12.2%. This is significantly higher than the previous two years’ at 0.5% and 1.0% for 2018 and 2019, respectively.
Mike Sheehan, the associate vice chancellor for Housing, Dining and Divisional Operations, explained the purpose of the survey and why this year’s data differs from past years.
“The survey is a tool for the university, local government and local property managers to understand key variables within the Davis rental market,” Sheehan said via email. “The 2020 vacancy survey is demonstrating the impact of the global pandemic as we now have the highest vacancy rate since 1992 (for apartments leased by the unit).”
Sheehan explained what the increase in the vacancy rate means for the local economy.
“Increased vacancy means fewer students living on-campus and within the City of Davis,” Sheehan said via email. “The financial impacts to the university, local businesses and local property owners are significant.”
With UC Davis moving forward with planning for fall 2021 in-person instruction, Sheean explained that the Housing Department is also preparing for in-person learning.
“We know students want to be on campus for instruction,” Sheehan said via email. “UC Davis has a record number of applications for the upcoming academic year. We are moving forward with all of our construction projects to ensure readiness for students’ return. The market is expected to rebound quickly once the pandemic is under control. We are planning for normal occupancy for the upcoming academic year.”
Sheehan explained that observing proper health protocols is the most important aspect of an in-person return in fall quarter.
“Safety is our top priority. UC Davis has been following and at times exceeding all state and local guidance to reduce the risk of transmission,” Sheehan said via email. “We will continue to work with the Yolo County public health office as we develop our plans for the next academic year.”
Karen Mattis, the property manager for the Arbors Apartments, explained the financial difficulty the pandemic has caused for both residents and local property managers.
“I think that it was a big adjustment for everybody,” Mattis said. “It’s a hard situation. It’s challenging because there are residents who were affected dramatically—but on the flipside, we had a contract with them, so we did our best to balance out where we could.”
Mattis explained that safety is a top concern for apartment complexes, leading many to close amenities.
“As of right now, our gym, pool, spa and clubhouse are closed completely,” Mattis said. “We opened [amenities] for maybe a month by appointment, but once we went to purple tier we closed again. Keeping everything and everybody safe [is] the most important thing.”
Mattis explained that despite the difficulties of the past year, she is hopeful for the upcoming school year.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and we’re just not seeing the traffic that we normally see—everyone is waiting to see what happens next,” Mattis said. “I don’t want to say that I want everything to go back to normal, because I understand that things will be different, but I’m hoping that school will be back in person in the fall and that students and residents will be able to come back.”
Lesile Diaz, a third-year pharmaceutical chemistry and Spanish double major, explained that she’s living with her parents while paying for an apartment room in Davis.
“I’m currently living back at home in San Diego, CA, and paying for my room up in Davis,” Diaz said via email. “I’ve decided to live at home to be safer and spend some time with family during these times.”
Diaz described her plan to return to campus, noting that it’s been harder to study and stay involved back at home.
“I will be going back spring quarter since I realized it’s very difficult to study here at home,” Diaz said via email. “I’m hoping that going back to campus and having a different place to study will help motivate me to finish the year strong. I’m also hoping it’s possible to find more opportunities to get involved if COVID restrictions allow.”
Written by: Yan Yan Hustis Hayes — firstname.lastname@example.org