Students Are Living In Hotels & Cars Due To Lack Of Campus Housing In California
What will California's public university systems do for its students?
November 12, 2021 at 7:02 pm
California's three public university systems have faced an urgent crisis regarding affordable campus housing for their students. Hundreds of California's students have found themselves homeless, spending large sums on hotels, or building debt based on lack of on-campus housing.
Twelve of 116 California Community Colleges campuses have housing programs, which shelter 2,400 students, an Assembly subcommittee noted. With 20% of community college students reporting homelessness, the need is so high that 81 colleges have submitted applications for new state housing grants to plan or construct dorm projects.
To make matters even worst, the University of California and California State University systems had over 16,000 students waitlisted for fall housing, despite building housing for 36,000 students by both institutions. UC Berkeley also turned away roughly 5,500 housing requests this fall, and due to high rents and scarce supply, nearly 40% of undergraduates cannot afford to live in the city. Other institutions like Long Beach City College kickstarted a pilot program allowing 15 students to stay in their cars on-campus parking lots to deescalate the crisis.
The pandemic has also played a significant role in the lack of student housing for California students, the Los Angeles Times reported. UC San Diego eliminated triple-occupancy rooms due to COVID-19 restrictions. The closing of triple-occupancy living led the campus to remove a two-year housing guarantee until 2023. UC Berkeley removed over 150 rooms for their students and turned on-campus rooms into quarantine bases for students who contracted the virus.
"We have a housing crisis in California. We have a student affordability issue. And there's a legislative push to expand enrollment for California students dramatically," Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, said. "So we think it's smart for us to get in the business of helping build more student housing."
UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla has ideas for housing projects, hoping to generate a savings of 2.1 million for every 100 million borrowed, giving 1,000 California students in financial aid and lower housing costs at nearly 38% under market cost.
Despite wanting to move forward with housing projects, litigation against UC housing projects based on state environmental laws has become another considerable challenge.
Plans include a UC Berkeley project to house 1,000 beds and 100 units of affordable community housing at the historic People's Park. UC Santa Cruz plans to cover 3,000 beds across two campuses, including a student-family complex and child-care center.
At UC Santa Barbara, officials claim the Munger Hall Project is essential to halting its housing needs. The 11-story design by billionaire Charles Munger would house 4,500 students by 2025 in a warehouse-size building where about 94% of the units do not have windows. Munger also pledged $200 million to the project. — So far, just two projects have been completed with about 1,500 beds.
Considering officials have not agreed to extend the contracts for hotel housing for about 350 students; many have gathered together to protest the lack of housing and the controversial Munger design.
"If the school doesn't figure out a way to house our students, it will be nothing less than a direct attack on them," Isabel Bahamonde-Partlan shared with the Los Angeles Times. "Students need to know their university will support them in a crisis like this."
Bahamonde-Partlan is a junior who helped organize the student housing rally after having a "dehumanizing" experience couch surfing this fall semester before finding affordable housing, just a 40-minute bus ride from campus.