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Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

University, legislators must do more to ensure students have access to affordable housing

Recent years have seen a housing shortage that is impacting students across UC campuses




The time has come again — planning for next year’s housing is underway. Not only does this come at one of the most inopportune times in the year (the latter half of winter quarter is not exactly known for being a crowd pleaser), but it has become increasingly difficult to find a place to live in recent years. The housing market seems impossible to navigate, and the incredible amount of pressure placed on students to find accommodations adds additional stress on top of already busy schedules.

Recently, this pressure has even caused UC Davis students to camp out in below-freezing conditions in the hopes of securing a lease at an off-campus apartment complex. When an academic institution sees students putting themselves at risk of frostbite in order to secure a living situation months in advance, there is clearly an issue at hand that isn’t being adequately addressed.

It may be easy to place blame on our local city government for these problems, but it’s important to acknowledge the limitations that the city council finds placed upon them in this area. The city is responsible for providing sufficient land to meet state housing requirements, not for actually building said housing. This caveat means that the council can only do so much in terms of actual legislation. Accordingly, they have adopted a revised plan that outlines how the city will meet these housing needs by the end of 2029.

Several city council members have supported building higher-density housing, which would need approval in order to go above city ordinances limiting the amount of stories that buildings are allowed to have. In turn, this sometimes faces public opposition from so-called NIMBY groups (NIMBY being an acronym for “Not In My Backyard”). Such groups are responsible for preventing housing developments in places like Berkeley, often citing environmental regulations such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as an argument against housing more students. This has prompted criticism from larger governmental entities, including CA Governor Gavin Newsom, who has publicly stated that “this law needs to change.”

A player with real power in this case is the university administration. While the state has cut funding for cities that used to go towards construction of affordable housing, the university has the capacity to budget for increased housing units. Some of these are already under construction, including the newly minted Green housing complex and redevelopments to the Orchard Park apartments. However, not all students will be able to afford to live in these new developments. The university must do significantly more in terms of affordable housing to mitigate the magnitude of the crisis as it stands.

Additionally, UC Davis must not admit more students than the campus and city have the resources to house. A surge in student admissions, as well as skyrocketing market prices, have essentially created a “captive market” of students that the UC has long failed to accommodate.

And the situation in Davis isn’t even the most severe of the UC campuses; at UC Santa Cruz, for example, roughly 9% of students reported experiencing homelessness in 2020. At Davis, this statistic lies around 6% — a smaller percentage, yes, but any amount of students lacking a place to live while they attend school is reason for concern.

Ultimately, the city and the university must work together to address housing concerns for its residents and students. In addition to avoiding over enrollment, UC Davis must provide the resources and plans for such construction, and the city must work to protect these plans and ensure that they go through. Otherwise, there exists the possibility of a situation occurring here along the lines of the controversial litigations happening in Berkeley.

So, what can students looking for housing do? In the short term, take advantage of the housing resources that are available to you. Consider keeping tabs on ASUCD’s Community Housing Listings Homepage, checking housing/class Facebook groups to find others seeking roommates, looking into other community housing options and getting an early start on house hunting. 

On a more fundamental level, the best way to address the student housing crisis is through advocating for political change. On campus, you can vote in ASUCD elections and support candidates who are pushing for more affordable housing in Davis. Also, if you are registered to vote in Davis, vote for those who will support measures that create higher-density housing around the university. It’s worth educating yourself on these issues — if not for yourself, for future students who will likely be impacted even more extensively if a solution doesn’t present itself soon.  


Written by: The Editorial Board