UC Davis Study: City Apartment Vacancy Rate Still Tight, Rental Rates Up

A bunch of balloons advertise an apartment for lease
Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo

Few city of Davis apartments are vacant and rental rates are up since last year, according to a survey commissioned by Student Housing and Dining Services at UC Davis and released today (Feb. 11).

The blended vacancy rate — including apartments leased by the unit and by the bed — is estimated to be 0.5 percent, compared with 0.3 percent in fall 2017. Rents increased by an average of 6.5 percent.

The report on the 43rd vacancy- and rental-rate survey, designed to provide the campus and surrounding communities with information to support planning, comes as UC Davis is not only constructing more student housing on campus but also working to address the issue of the affordability of student housing more broadly.

According to the fall survey, 30 apartments, or 0.4 percent, of 7,073 leased by unit were vacant, compared with 0.2 percent vacant last year.

Among the 1,204 units leased by the bed rather than the unit as a whole, 28, or 0.7 percent, of the 3,955 beds were vacant. Last year, 1.6 percent of beds in this type of unit were vacant. 

In response to a new question, the survey found that on average most unit types have at least one bedroom with double occupancy.

Rental rates

Most survey respondents reported static or increasing rents. For the first time since 2014, however, some complexes reported lowering rents to fill vacancies: four complexes lowered rents across the board and two on just some of their units.

The average monthly rent for unit-leased apartments of all sizes was up 8.5 percent, from $1,673 last year to $1,815. The average monthly rental rate for a bed lease was up 6.9 percent, from $892 in fall 2017 to $954.

The survey also reports on the provision of incentives and move-in specials as well as utilities, appliances, amenities and parking.

A total of 109 apartment complexes and property management companies representing 8,658 rental units responded to the survey. Only the 8,277 market-rate units were included in the report’s calculations.

Student housing projects

UC Davis, which guarantees housing to new freshman and transfer students, is in the midst of its most ambitious period of planning and construction for additional student housing.

In a memorandum of understanding with the city of Davis and Yolo County, the campus agreed in September to grow the number of on-campus beds available to students, starting with the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) baseline of 9,818 in 2016-17 and building to at least 15,000 beds by fall 2023. Beds number 10,486 this academic year. In addition, the campus committed to providing housing to cover new enrollment in excess of that projected in the LRDP.

Among projects that will add campus housing:

  • In fall 2019, the new Yosemite Hall is scheduled to reopen with 400 beds.
  • Also in fall 2019, the scheduled opening of a new dining commons in the Tercero Area will allow for future growth and greater flexibility to triple freshman beds when needed.
  • In January, construction began on the West Village expansion project to provide room for 1,000 beds for 2020 and an additional 2,300 beds in 2021, in apartments for transfer students and continuing undergraduates.
  • The Emerson Hall project is scheduled to begin this summer with the goal of opening a year early in fall 2021 with 800 residence hall beds for new freshman students.
  • The campus is working on the planning, design and financing for the Orchard Park redevelopment project to house students with families and graduate students.


The campus is addressing the recommendations of the task force on student housing affordability. Among highlights of a recent progress report from the Basic Needs Oversight Committee, the campus is:

  • prioritizing affordability in its own construction by minimizing architectural complexity and fabricating portions of new housing offsite;
  • streamlining the student government’s Community Housing Listing service
  • reintroducing the Davis Model Lease, offered for use as a lease that protects the best interests of property owners and renters;
  • hiring for a new community housing position to liaise with landlords and help resolve student-landlord issues;
  • providing emergency housing by reserving some beds for the purpose and covering the cost of hotel vouchers; and
  • working with city and Yolo County officials regarding strategies to reduce homelessness.

Help to find housing

Student Housing and Dining Services coordinators and property managers in the city of Davis host workshops in fall and winter quarters to help students prepare to look for and secure housing.

Also, the Associated Students of UC Davis hosts an annual Housing Day with representatives of Davis apartment complexes.

Media Resources

Michael Sheehan, Student Housing and Dining Services, 530-752-0339, mtsheehan@ucdavis.edu

Julia Ann Easley, News and Media Relations, 530-752-8248, jaeasley@ucdavis.edu

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