Sonoma State purchases employee housing

Sonoma State University has purchased a $42 million apartment complex in Petaluma in an effort to provide housing for employees. The California State University Board of Trustees unanimously approved the acquisition of the 90-unit Marina Crossing Apartments adjacent to the Petaluma Marina.

The 2-acre property is approximately ten miles south of campus and is close to downtown Petaluma. Sonoma State has lost roughly 1 in 5 candidates in their recruitment process over the past year due to the cost of housing. The employee housing project was created in hopes to provide rental rates that will meet various income levels across campus.

“Having talented faculty on campus is paramount to providing a quality education to our students.” said Vice President of Administration of Finance Joyce Lopes.

“Further, the housing will be available to Sonoma State faculty, staff, and students. The demand study we conducted last spring indicated over 200 students had interest in rental housing that provide opportunities for students with families.”

Attracting qualified candidates has become increasingly difficult due to Sonoma County’s housing affordability crisis, which became even worse after last year’s destructive wildfires. The university’s purchase of the 90-unit apartment complex is the first step in combating employee’s needs for housing. 118 employees and over 200 students indicated need for affordable rental housing and the university is expanding its efforts to overcome this issue.

Sonoma State is not only working to provide affordable living options for employees, but has also developed a team to begin the planning for student housing to meet the president’s commitment to house 50 percent of the students on campus, which is currently housing 30 percent.

The university said it plans to pay for the Petaluma property with reserves and state bonds and will be owned and managed by Sonoma State’s housing services office. Operating costs are expected to be covered by income generated from rent collected from apartment tenants. 

The new apartment complex will have five different floor plans from studios to three-bedroom apartments. The average apartment measures 825 square feet and will be available to rent for $2,200 to $3,500, but the university has not decided on final prices yet. 

“We are still working on the final rates which will be tiered based on unit amenities. We will be sending out information with the rental rates, the unit specifics, and the application process in the next month,” said Joyce Lopes.

Some Sonoma State students are upset with the university’s decision to invest such a large amount of money into one apartment complex. Nick Honrada, a senior kinesiology major at Sonoma State said, “The university’s plan to invest $42 million on an apartment complex is absurd. The university could spend the money on making improvements around campus, such as, updating classrooms, on-campus housing, or even creating incentives like employee bonuses.” 

Purchasing the Petaluma apartment complex will address Sonoma State’s housing needs four to six years sooner than if the university built it. The apartments will be finished in December and ready to rent in January 2019.