Amid a statewide student housing crisis, California assemblymember Eduardo Garcia introduced AB 1630, which would streamline private student housing developments within 1,000 feet of California college campuses.
The bill also considers the development “ministerial,” and thus exempts the developments from the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, which has been at the core of the case preventing UC Berkeley from building student housing on People’s Park.
Michelle Andrews, the government relations chair of the University of California Student Association, or UCSA, noted that while AB 1630 is not meant to have any effect on the development on People’s Park, which is university-sponsored, the stall in development pushed them to pursue the bill.
“As far as legislative history, until quite recently, we haven’t given much thought to student housing beyond on-campus housing,” said Matt Aini, a campus student and policy director at the student advocacy organization GENup. “At UC Berkeley, student housing has been around for a long time. At CSU’s and community colleges, the status quo is, they barely have housing units. It’s a testament to the fact it hasn’t gotten as much individual attention it deserves to address it like it is — a crisis.”
All housing is physically off campus, but off-campus housing also means “not university sponsored.” Private developers have not been incentivized to build in the past because rezoning to increase density is a costly process that “no property would want to go through,” noted Aini, who helped write AB 1630.
In addition, Andrews noted that 80% of the units would be guaranteed for students, faculty and staff, and 20% must be affordable.
This includes properties zoned for single-family homes that could be expanded into multi-family units, according to Aini.
“This will have the most impact on community college and California State University students,” Andrews said. “It will have an impact on UC students, but UCs already have more housing than CSU and community colleges do, and those are the students who really need it.”
Finding housing has proved to be a “free for all,” according to Andrews. As a student at UC Davis, she’s seen students compete with hundreds of other students to get a lease, camping out at apartment complexes overnight, and ultimately paying over $1,000 per month when they do find a lease.
In addition, students living off campus must also compete with “vulnerable” renters who are also seeking affordable units, Aini said.
According to Andrews, the student homelessness rate is 5% across UC campuses, 10% at California State Universities and 20% at community colleges.
Those same colleges are represented in the student organization sponsors of AB 1630 — the Student HOMES Coalition, the UCSA, Student Senate for California Community Colleges and GENup, according to Garcia.
“Access to affordable student housing should not be a barrier for students pursuing their education,” Garcia said in an email. “Students struggling to meet their basic needs will not be able to achieve their true potential. By ensuring California students can afford a roof over their heads, we hope to prevent homelessness while allowing them to focus on their studies and building their dreams.”