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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Housing shortage at UC Berkeley makes students struggle

Editor’s Note: This story was produced for Mosaic Vision, a Mosaic Journalism Workshop pilot project for Bay Area high school students. Students of the program report and photograph stories under the guidance of professional journalists.

After a new state law allowed UC Berkeley to bypass a court-mandated enrollment limit, freshman Angela Hyun felt relieved. In the end, she will go to the school of her dreams.

But the housing shortage that caused the enrollment freeze in the first place has not gone away. So is the battle between Berkeley residents and the university over how to solve problems. And students are still caught in the middle.

For homeless students, attending Berkeley comes with challenges that complicate daily academic life at a prestigious and sought-after university.

Hyun is still excited to go to Berkeley in the fall, but worries about where she will live after her freshman year. Freshmen are guaranteed accommodation in a hostel. She, like many others, wants a solution to the housing shortage.

“I feel like overcrowding doesn’t come out of nowhere,” she said. “Like it was a long time ago.

As a senior at Silver Creek High School in San Jose, Huyn heard stories and read reports in the local media about Cal’s housing shortage. Students endure two-hour car and public transit rides, pay thousands of dollars a month for a bed in a crowded house, sit on the couch of friends, and even live in their cars.

Sabrina Hoang-Lan Jones calls herself a “double bear” for attending UC Berkeley where she was an undergraduate student and is currently a law student.

“Ever since I got guaranteed housing in my freshman year, housing has been a problem,” Jones said. “In my senior year, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment with only four girls, two in the bedroom and two in the living room.” The cost per person was $800 per month.

Jones currently lives alone in a room, but the building has a shared kitchen and bathroom. However, finding this place was not so easy. Every year, she checks websites, including Craigslist and other Berkeley housing pages, that are rife with scams. She believes the most reliable list is a Google Spreadsheet compiled by Berkeley students.

Not only is it difficult to find a suitable place to live, but also landlords do not always welcome nine-month leases to fit the university’s academic calendar.

“I’m lucky to live relatively close to Berkeley to visit apartments in person, but I often have to make more than one trip, visiting six to ten apartments,” Jones said.

UC Berkeley’s housing shortage and admissions policy pit residents who want the university to build more student housing before admitting more students against a university that claims to build housing and doesn’t want to deny thousands of students its new freshman class. .

Phil Sideways, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, says the group will continue to push the school into further litigation. He expressed disappointment that they were unable to obtain a legally binding commitment to build affordable housing.

“Beds 9,000, students 45,000. They need to catch up in housing, and they shouldn’t keep expanding Berkeley if they can’t catch up,” Bokovoi said. Residents cited increased traffic, trash, noise, and other effects of Berkeley’s growing student population.

From 2013 to 2021, the university increased its enrollment by approximately 3,000 students annually. In 2018, UC Berkeley launched a housing initiative to address the housing shortage and a number of projects are currently underway.

“The university has acknowledged that we have a housing crisis for students. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build as many student residences as possible in close proximity to campus as quickly as possible,” said Dan Mogulof, Assistant Vice Chancellor.

“This will provide beds and university dorms for all freshmen and sophomores,” he said. For transfer students, the university began construction of a large student dormitory. “We will start construction of another student hostel for 1,000 people in the People’s Park. We have just opened a new graduate housing facility in Emeryville,” Mogulof said.

This is of little comfort to students who now need housing. They still live in their cars, in substandard housing, or face long commutes that prevent them from interacting with other students, faculty, and campus activities.

Students who are struggling to find housing do have the resources to help with basic needs, said Adam Ratliff, assistant director of media relations, critical communications and student relations.

“The well-being of our students is critical and we want students to know that resources are available all year round,” he said. The university offers services, including a grocery pantry and an emergency rental assistance program. Students can also get help accessing external services such as the Basic Needs Center and the Bears for Financial Success peer-to-peer program, which provides workshops to help students manage their finances.

Betsy Putnam, housing curator for the Berkeley Co-op, offers affordable housing regardless of the university, with 20 homes serving the area. The largest houses of the Co-op serve 260 students each, while the smallest serve 17 students.

World Nation News Desk
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