The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Proposed housing for faculty, staff

Birds chirp on a sunny day as CSUN employees make their way down Devonshire Avenue toward campus. They hop on the daily tram shuttle, walk, or ride a bike. The employees choose their various modes of transportation as they shut the doors to their row houses along the street and say their good mornings and good byes to one another.

This is not a scene from a Gene Kelly movie. This is just one ideal scenario that many hope will occur when Devonshire Downs, a faculty and staff residential community breaks ground this year.

“They have been talking about this for six years,” said Nicholas Dungey, an associate professor of political science.

Dungey said when he arrived to CSUN six years ago, one of the ideas discussed was finding a way to address the desperate need for affordable housing for faculty and staff members.

Six years later, construction of the for-sale faculty and staff housing has yet to begin. Meanwhile, Dungey said he continues to commute from his Glendale condominium to the San Fernando Valley to lecture his political science courses.

Devonshire Downs is not a new or innovative idea. It is simply a reaction to what many say is the university’s dilemma in recruiting and retaining quality faculty and staff members.

In fact, the university has lost a number of faculty members to other universities in recent years, said Jennifer Matos, CSUN faculty president.

“We are competitors for attracting faculty, because of where we are and then reality sets in and many of them can’t afford to live here,” said Matos.

Universities across the nation are using housing as a marketable asset in attracting and keeping good faculty and staff members.

Another problem many believe Devonshire Downs will solve is the detached feeling many faculty and staff members exhibit do in part to the university’s commuter lifestyle. Matos, a commuter to the campus, said there are very few functions she will participate in because of the commute.

“So many of the faculty don’t live close to campus,” said Matos in regard to why the sense of a “university family” has not existed on this campus.

Rick Evans, associate executive director for the NCDC, also said a goal of Devonshire Downs was to foster a sense of a community by creating a place where faculty and staff could easily interact with one another and the surrounding CSUN community.

“Unlike other communities where human energy is focused in the backyard, we want to bring that energy to the front yard,” said Evans.

Dungey and Matos agree that faculty and staff member housing will enhance the education and experience for students. Dungey said that living in close proximity will allow professors time for conference hours and basic human interaction with students that is often disrupted by long commutes.

Dungey also said this project would open up CSUN to a new pool of talented and qualified professors.

“We already have a high caliber of faculty and staff here, that’s not the problem,” said Jane DeLorenzis, director of real estate for the University Corporation.

DeLorenzis said the goal of the corporation and administration is to recruit great staff members and maintain those already at CSUN.

The real issue the university faces is the need to attract a diverse and equally qualified faculty and staff members, a problem that in recent years has been amplified by one factor, the California real estate market. Even during its new decline, the housing market remains too expensive for many prospective faculty and staff members to accept a job in the region.

Addressing the impact of the housing market on “recruitment and retention” for CSUN, the North Campus Development Corporation has developed the Devonshire Downs residential community as an affordable alternative to the surrounding pricey residential community.

The 30 acres, which was once home to the historic Devonshire Downs racetrack, will be transformed into affordable for-sale town homes that will be comprised of three to four bedroom homes.

The inspiration for the two-story row style homes are the row houses of San Francisco, Evans said.

Evans said the town homes will be harmonious and compatible, as well as uniquely different from each other.

“The quality of the homes is going to be high-quality homes,” said Evans in regard to the high standards in which the homes will be built to despite their apparent affordability.

CSUN is not the first public institution in California to offer its employees the option of living and purchasing affordable property in close proximity to the university.

“We are not trying to reinvent the wheel here. UC Irvine started doing this in the 1980s,” said Evans

Other examples of faculty residences can be seen at Cal States Channel Islands and Fullerton, which broke ground on its affordable staff housing in 2001. Since then, CSUF has developed additional housing that includes for-sale town homes and detached homes, ranging in price from $350,000 to $430,000 in 2004, about $200,000 below average price for homes during that period.

The primary candidates for Devonshire Downs are the junior faculty members who are just completing or beginning their tenures as professors at CSUN, said Matos.

Dungey is one of those junior faculty members who is in favor of Devonshire Downs, but still has a few reservations about the housing project. Dungey said if Devonshire Downs prices range between $450,000 and $500,000, a figure that was presented to faculty members about two months ago, most junior faculty members will not be able to afford it.

“It is impossible to purchase a house at normal interest rates on a academic salary. It simply can’t be done,” said Dungey.

The NCDC has yet to determine a concrete price range for Devonshire Downs town homes.

Despite a few reservations, Dungey said he is confident that Devonshire Downs will provide a source of change for the university. Dungey said the change will provide a practical and profound impact on the dynamics of the university.

Some of these changes include a new sense of CSUN pride, increased faculty and staff member participation in the university’s events and more professor-student interaction.

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