Facing a need to house workers like any other business, Sonoma State University announced it will take the step of buying a 90-unit apartment complex in Petaluma.
The university disclosed the deal on Nov. 14 to provide faculty and staff housing, saying it had received unanimous approval from the trustees of the California State University system.
The university will spend $42 million to acquire the nearly completed project on a 2.17-acre parcel adjacent to the Petaluma Marina. The complex is located roughly 10 miles south of its campus. According to the university, it is a multifamily, four- and five-story development nearing completion by Basin Street Properties.
“We are excited to be able to move forward with this landmark acquisition,” stated SSU President Judy Sakaki in making the announcement. “This will allow us to address Sonoma State’s housing needs in an immediate and significant way.”
The University has identified a current need of 118 rental units and 174 for-sale units for faculty and staff in an area which had a significant housing issue before wildfires wiped out thousands of homes about a year ago.
Joyce Lopes, vice president for Administration and Finance and CFO for SSU, said the university originally considered buying land and building the needed housing. “This arrangement is going to help us address our housing needs four to six years sooner than if we had to build it ourselves,” said Lopes. “We also end up taking ownership of a high-quality project, which will be a tremendous asset for us.”
The university stated it intended to pay for the purchase using a combination of its reserves and “systemwide revenue bonds.” Once the units are occupied, which a university spokesman said could be as early as January or February, SSU would operate the complex and cover its costs with rental income.
First call for the units is expected to be faculty and staff, but the university stated “excess inventory could be made available, by agreement, to employees of other regional public colleges and universities.”
Sakaki, who lost her home to the wildfires, said the housing crisis has not only added more stress to the quality of life for employees, “we are finding that one in every five job candidates who are offered positions at Sonoma State have turned us down this past year due to the high cost and lack of availability of housing.”
She has announced the university’s goal is to provide on-campus housing for half of its students by 2040. At present, about 30 percent of its 9,300 students live in residential suites and apartments on campus.