It’s a tired topic, but we’ve got to talk about it: Housing in the Bay Area, especially for students, is becoming more and more critical of an issue.
The city of Berkeley itself isn’t geographically that big. In the past year alone, 35,000 people moved to Berkeley in the past year alone, according to Chancellor Carol Christ. Available land is shrinking while the influx of people into Berkeley continues to grow, not to mention the incessantly rising cost of living in the area.
UC Berkeley — Berkeley’s “biggest landlord,” as it was dubbed by the San Francisco Chronicle — sees bona fide growth in enrollment every year, bringing in more and more freshmen, transfers and graduate students eager to partake in the campus’s promise of academic excellence. (It’s great to see that, apparently, slight slippage in rankings does little to deter students from attending UC Berkeley.) In the past year, 9,000 students moved to Berkeley to attend classes on campus.
Since the city and the campus find themselves in similar situations — having to house indefinitely growing populations — you’d think that they would collaborate. Instead, the two parties are engaged in a lawsuit over how much campus should be paying the city for student housing.
Frankly, lawsuits are expensive and unproductive, and this one in particular has been going on since June. It’s time for the campus and the city to constructively work together on finding a solution to overcrowding and crushing housing costs. Each party benefits from the other, and trying to bring the situation into court doesn’t achieve much of anything at all, other than prolonging the housing crisis.
The campus needs to accept that trying to maintain a certain acceptance rate amid increases in applications means a guaranteed spike in the student population every year. And it really needs to start accounting for that much more in advance, rather than stuffing students into every last makeshift quad dorm possible.
For her part, Christ has been putting in the work. Given that campus plans to break ground on two sites in the near future (People’s Park and the Oxford Tract), the chancellor has given all constituents the opportunity to say their piece. Granted, campus is still building on People’s Park, but the chancellor has stated repeatedly that building supportive housing is a top priority. It’s critical that the conversations she has about these issues don’t go unaddressed or pale in comparison to necessary housing.
On the city’s end, there’s no denying that UC Berkeley is an integral part of the city’s population and culture. Rather than condemning campus’s projected growth or trying to milk more money out of the university, the city should actively support the campus’s presence by developing housing solutions that cater to both students and city residents.
Petty fights should be a thing of the past — the city and campus have a mutually beneficial relationship, and it’s time that they collaborated smartly to find a solution that works for everyone.