Students Are Taking the Housing Crisis Into Their Own Hands

Artist’s rendering of planned new student housing at UC Davis West Village.

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Sacramento, CA – Last week, the Student HOMES Coalition held a press conference announcing four bills they are con-sponsoring to tackle the Student Housing Crisis in California.

SB 312, sponsored by Senator Scott Wiener will address CEQA Exemptions for Student Housing.  The bill would resolve lingering issues from SB 886 that prevents universities from utilizing the bill to streamline student and faculty housing.

AB 3116 from Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia would provide a new framework for the Student Housing Density Bonus (SHDB), that “better accounts for the unique needs of student housing. AB 3116 will make key reforms to the SHDB by creating a sliding scale of density bonus relative to affordability, removing the master lease requirement, and providing additional incentives and concessions to student housing projects.”

AB 2785 from Assemblymember Lori Wilson notes that 17 million individuals, 44 percent of the state’s population are renters, however, “renters face considerable financial hurdles, with over 52% allocating more than 30% of their income towards rent, and 27% surpassing the 50% threshold.”

She notes, “The median rent in California has surged by 35% since 2000, while renter household incomes have only increased by 6% during the same period. This widening gap between housing costs and incomes contributes to a homelessness crisis affecting approximately 172,000 Californians.”

The bill would address issues of security deposits requiring them to be “deposited in a financial institution regulated by the state or federal government. The account can only be used for tenants’ security deposits. The account must be interest-bearing and list the tenant as the beneficiary.”

AB 2801 from Laura Friedman also addresses security deposits, ensuring that “deposits of tenants are not used to subsidize upgrades to the unit once vacated. By adding more safeguards to the handling of security deposits this bill aims to strike the balance of clarifying what the landlord and tenant are responsible for under current law.”

“Young renters and college students renting for the first time, are especially vulnerable to the abusive behaviors some landlords engage in. For many renters, especially those with lower household incomes, affording a security deposit and renting, requires a great deal of sacrifice,” said Assemblymember Friedman. “AB 2801 affords some of our most vulnerable communities revolutionary protections when it comes time to pay and receive a returned security deposit.”

“As the next generation of Californians, the fight for housing is a fight for our future.” said Allyson Chan, Organizing Director of the Student HOMES Coalition. “Students are inheriting this crisis, but we’re not waiting to fix it. We want more homes. And we’re ready to fight.”

“More than 8% of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at the University of California are currently facing homelessness. Students have been forced to skip meals to make food budgets last, and are faced with a mental health crisis, partially as a result of a lack of affordable housing options near our campuses,” said David Ramirez, UCSA Government Relations Chair and a student at UC Los Angeles. “The UC Student Association is proud to co-sponsor these four bills, which will address the housing shortage and affordability crises around our campuses.

“Accessible and affordable education cannot exist without accessible and affordable housing.” said Kate Rodgers, Co-Chief of Policy for GENup and UCLA student. “Housing insecurity undermines academic performance, lowers class attendance, and increases drop out rates. It is clearly not enough to enact legislation that gets students into the lecture hall, we must also ensure that they have the resources to stay there. And it starts with affordable housing.”

“Our system of higher education is the crown jewel of Californian civilization,” said Brian Hanlon, CEO of California YIMBY. “It is unconscionable that students are forced into overcrowded, expensive housing – or worse, homelessness – because schools refuse to build sufficient student housing and neighboring communities refuse to permit homebuilding. ‘Students are the future’ may be cliched, but it’s true. It’s past time for the Legislature to make good on the promise of the California Master Plan for Higher Education and ensure that all students have access to well-located, high-quality, and affordable housing.”

“Tenant protection and housing affordability is of primary concern, and our focus is on reducing the barriers and costs associated with finding, securing, and maintaining housing. Critical to solving both intertwined crises is making sure we are removing barriers to affordable housing, as well as improving homelessness prevention so that everyone has a safe and affordable place to call home.” said Kimberly Robinson, a Solís Policy Institute Fellow and Community Liaison with the Black Women for Wellness Action Project.

“Increasing the production of student housing and reducing gentrification and displacement pressure on adjacent low-income communities goes hand-in-hand. Cities have failed to allow for growth in student neighborhoods, and this has driven up students’ rents and driven displacement. AB 3116 is designed to induce a building boom of student housing to reverse this trend.” said Joseph May, Director of the Los Angeles Housing Production Institute.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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