A bill that would make private student housing more affordable passed the Assembly Housing Committee on a bipartisan and unanimous vote, 8-0. It now heads to the Assembly Education Committee where it will be heard in the last week of April.
AB 1579 would ensure that student housing developments “do not have to pay unrelated school district impact fees.” The sponsor, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, believes that this will save “millions of dollars in costs for student housing and help reduce the overall price on construction.”
UC Davis ASUCD Senator Alisha Hacker was one of the students who testified on Wednesday at the capital. She told the Vanguard that Assemblymember Gabriel is the member where she grew up and she had previously interned in the Capitol.
Ms. Hacker has previously advocated and spoken out on the need for student housing in Davis. They asked her if she could testify to explain student housing needs, and she agreed.
She said, “I spoke to the most stark statistics in Davis. The fact that seven percent of UC Davis students have experienced homelessness. Eighteen percent have been housing insecure. That seven percent homelessness translates to about 2300 student and 18 percent is about 6000 students.
“I hit them with some of those numbers,” she said. “I just reminded them that at the end of the day, when a student is facing housing insecurity they’re choosing between their ability to get an education, the ability to buy books, or provide a meal for themselves in order to pay the rent.”
Ms. Hacker stated, “Those things hinder their success in education in the long run.”
A number of recent reports, both in the form of studies and in the media, have pointed to students suffering from a serious shortage of student housing. As the numbers of students who apply and are admitted increase, colleges have found themselves increasingly unable to supply housing sufficient to meet that demand.
“This directly leads to our students facing increased rates of homelessness and housing insecurity,” Assemblymember Gabriel’s material indicates.
A study released in 2016 reported by the LA Times, for example, found, “About one in 10 of California State University’s 460,000 students is homeless, and one in five doesn’t have steady access to enough food.”
Earlier this year, the San Jose Mercury News reported, “Nineteen percent of students attending California’s community college system have experienced homelessness in the last year, while 60 percent have experienced recent housing insecurity and 50 percent have struggled with food insecurity.”
Meanwhile, the Sacramento State News reported from a study from the Chancellor’s Office, that nearly 11 percent of CSU Students report being homeless – “sleeping in their car, on a friend’s couch, in a shelter, or outdoors – at least once last year, and 41.6 percent sometimes went hungry, with almost half describing their food security as low or very low.”
At Sacramento State, 12.6 percent of students who responded to the survey say they experienced homelessness at some time in their college careers, and just over 47 percent struggle with food insecurity.
This was according to another report, this time by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University’s College of Education in Philadelphia, which surveyed nearly 40,000 students at 57 community colleges during the fall semesters of 2016 and 2018.
The paper writes: “If the survey’s numbers are projected statewide, as many as 400,000 community college students could be homeless, said Sara Goldrick-Rab, lead author of the report. She said the study’s findings are consistent with prior reports.”
Assemblymember Gabriel’s office writes: “The vast majority of students unable to secure on-campus housing must compete in supply-constrained and high market value, off-campus rental environments. As housing and rental prices across the state go up, our students are forced to search for rooms at prices that are increasingly out of reach. This limits their housing options to overpriced, run-down, ‘preferential’, or overcrowded housing, often involving long commutes to and from campus.”
While the Assemblymember believes that the private sector “can help deliver critically needed student housing to serve public college and universities,” he believes that “land and construction costs, as well as certain impact fees restrict student housing production and its affordability.”
Alisha Hacker told the Vanguard that she believes this bill can help the situation in Davis.
“It would give a break to private housing developers who want to build specifically for student housing,” she said. She believes that this could help primarily with higher density housing that is focused on students. “It would prevent them from having to pay an additional education fee.
“I think in a city like this, it would spur more university-specific growth,” she said.
As the Assemblymember’s fact sheet puts it, “California’s college students deserve a safe space to live while they work to get their degree and advance their career and life opportunities. This bill will ensure these projects are cost-effective and that California remains an attractive market for the building of desperately needed student housing.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting