Student rates

Student homelessness is a frustrating and preventable problem

There’s an ongoing battle over the future of lodging in California and the United States as a whole, and students are caught in the middle. Two factions have emerged amid a national homelessness crisis: the anti-housing NIMBYs (Not In My Backyard) and the pro-development YIMBYs (Yes In My Backyard). California’s response to its particularly severe housing crisis has long been influenced by a combination of outdated laws preserved through the misguided selfishness of NIMBY landlords. With student homelessness on the rise, NIMBY’s policies threaten to devastate future generations by denying students their basic needs, forcing them out of college and away from a path of high potential. .

California is on the front line in the fight against homelessness, and the situation has gotten much worse in recent years. The most notable example of the disturbing increase in homelessness can be found in Sacramento, where the homeless population has increased by 70% during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the widespread loss of income and jobs during the pandemic, one would assume that this upward trend is related to the economic effects of COVID-19. However, a study from Sacramento County shows that the main factor contributing to this increase in homelessness is the rising cost of housing.

Rents are skyrocketing because the US housing market is in its worst condition since the global financial crisis 15 years ago. A sharp drop in demand led to a steady decline in house prices, making the 2010s the worst decade on record for home building in America. Supply has largely exceeded demand, but the market has been partially revitalized by the entry into the labor market of a new generation of young adults – the Millennials -, each eager to buy their first home. This sudden surge in demand, combined with the limited supply of housing, caused house prices to spike.

Expecting a repeat of the 2008 housing crisis, builders have been cautious about investing in new properties, expecting a further drop in demand. They were wrong. As stimulus funds poured in and working from home became the rule of the country, people were ready to buy new homes. Supply could not keep up with demand and prices rose accordingly. Looking at the last 15 years of US real estate history, the obvious solution is simply to build more homes to compensate for the stagnation of the 2010s and the slow start of 2020. Of course, the obvious answer is rarely the easiest to accomplish. .

Housing insecurity affects many types of students in California, whom they attend UC Berkeley or a small community college. However, it seems to hit disadvantaged groups the hardest. A 2019 statewide survey found that 19% of California community college students have experienced homelessness and 60% have experienced housing insecurity. Moreover, minority groups were more likely to experience these conditions than their peers. Housing insecurity, often associated with food insecurity, negatively impacts a student’s ability to learn and focus on their studies. Given the disproportionate impact of homelessness on minority students, school diversity is a victim of this crisis, as disadvantaged students are forced to choose between tuition and rent.

Early efforts to address student homelessness include the provision of temporary shelters and the ability for students to live in their cars on campus, which, while seemingly undignified, provides some level of safety for students. students who need a safe place to park overnight. The far more effective solution of increasing the availability of affordable student accommodation is hampered by legal bureaucracy and community resistance. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) aims to preserve the ecological health of an area by establishing strict guidelines for safe construction and development. This 1970 law uses an outdated understanding of environmental impact and is often manipulated to block essential housing plans.

Enter the NIMBYs, short for “not in my garden”. These owners and activists theoretically oppose many forms of development for the sake of the environment, but such objections often prevent clean energy infrastructure without offering alternative solutions. With CEQA and a friendly tribunal on their side, the NIMBY movement succeeded in proving that college students were a environmental load, shattering the dreams of thousands of prospective UC Berkeley students. A slight increase in noise and traffic was deemed to outweigh the lost opportunities of thousands of qualified students who were denied admission. For those who have been admitted, the problem of housing and homelessness remains, as NIMBYs would rather increase homelessness than hurt their property values.

If students are so undervalued that they are seen as pollution, the future of this country is bleak. NIMBYs and laws like CEQA fail to truly understand the environmental and economic impact of development, treating all development as a burden rather than a benefit. With laws like the CEQA giving unqualified, selfish homeowners outsized influence over the state’s response to homelessness, the effectiveness of any counterattack effort will be significantly reduced. Fortunately, the California the state government pushes back against NIMBY policies, but the fight will be long and exhausting.

The state government is wielding its power to keep NIMBY-friendly cities in line, and schools are investing in promising alternatives to avoid the worst of the crisis. Nevertheless, significant changes are needed. Homelessness, housing insecurity and NIMBYism are not unique to California, and the struggle to combat them is fraught with pitfalls. As long as this national crisis persists, it is essential that students arm themselves with the knowledge to defend their interests. Know who is to blame, what needs fixing, and what you can do about it.