Survey: Davis Apartment Vacancy Rate Improves Substantially

Spurred by the construction of hundreds of new apartment units on the UC Davis campus, the apartment vacancy rate in the city of Davis has increased substantially, while monthly rents have increased more modestly.

A survey report released today (Feb. 1) shows a 3.0% blended vacancy rate — including apartments leased by the unit and by the bed — which is significantly higher than the 0.5% rate for fall 2022. Rents increased by a combined average of 1.8%.

The results are from the fall 2023 version of UC Davis’ apartment vacancy- and rental-rate survey, conducted since at least 1975. The Office of Student Housing and Dining Services commissions the survey to provide the campus and surrounding communities with information to support planning.

The survey results follow six years in which UC Davis has made a net gain of nearly 6,500 new apartment and residence hall beds on campus.

“It’s exciting to see the positive results,” said Michael Sheehan, associate vice chancellor for housing, dining and divisional operations in Student Affairs. “The collaborative planning efforts of both UC Davis and the city of Davis are having an impact.”

He added that the campus is moving forward with work on a new residence hall with 600 to 900 beds for fall 2027 and planning for a new apartment project.

Student housing on campus

In fall 2023, UC Davis housed about 14,080 students and their family members on campus.

With the opening of Orchard Park adding 1,500 beds for graduate students and students with families in September 2023, the campus exceeded its 2023 target of having 15,000 student beds on campus under the terms of a 2018 memorandum of understanding with the city of Davis and Yolo County.

Opened in September 2023, Orchard Park added 1,500 beds to campus. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)

Since 2017, UC Davis has opened about 6,500 new apartment and residence hall beds through construction of Orchard Park, the Tercero 4 complex, Yosemite Hall, The Green at West Village and Shasta Hall; and by doubling up beds in larger rooms at the Sol apartments in West Village.

In 2016-17, about 29% of students lived on campus. It is estimated that more than 40% of Davis-based students now have access to campus housing, and Chancellor Gary S. May has said the campus is working toward the goal of providing access to campus housing for 48%.

Student enrollment

In fall 2023, UC Davis enrolled a total of 40,848 students, an increase of 0.2% from the previous fall’s 40,764. Some of these students participate in programs at facilities outside of Davis, such as the Sacramento campus and beyond.

UC Davis measures its Davis-based enrollment as an average over the three regular academic quarters for its 2018 Long Range Development Plan, which has a projected capacity of 39,000 students for the Davis campus. Early estimates indicate enrollment will average about 37,000 for the 2023-24 academic year.

Vacancies by unit type

The 6,668 apartments leased by the unit accounted for about 72% of the market-rate rental units. According to the survey, 152 apartments, or 2.3%, were vacant and available for lease, compared with 18, or 0.2%, vacant among 7,403 apartments in fall 2022. Since 2017, the vacancy rate has ranged between 0.2% and 2.0%.

The 2,611 apartments leased by the bed rather than the unit as a whole account for about 28% of the market-rate apartments in the survey.  A total of 470, or 5.9%, of their 7,988 beds were vacant. In fall 2022, 0.8% of 9,040 beds in this type of unit were vacant.

Rental rates

The combined average rental rate increased 1.8% from fall 2022 to $2,719.

The average monthly rent for unit-leased apartments of all sizes — from studios to four or more bedrooms — was up 6.5% to $2,372.

Two-bedroom apartments — representing 45% of those rented by unit — were shared by three people and rented for $2,295, up 4.9% from fall 2022.

The average rate for a bed lease decreased 5.2% to $1,176.

Twenty apartment complexes reported offering incentives and move-in specials to help fill vacancies and attract new residents. The value of these incentives ranged from a $200 gift card to a full month of discounted rent, with the average value of $1,570 and well above that of prior years.

About the survey

A total of 108 apartment complexes and property management companies representing 10,801 rental units, or 1.9% fewer units than the previous year, responded to the survey. Based on the American Community Survey’s estimates of multifamily housing units in the city of Davis and on campus, the units captured in the survey account for approximately 83% of the Davis area multifamily housing stock.

The report’s calculations excluded units rented at below-market rates, so only those 9,279 market-rate units were included.

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