With an increasing horde of students, UC Berkeley has laid out plans to build new housing units at nine locations. But the reality of the situation is that the administration is not yet prepared to face the next wave of students. We must start breaking ground, fast.
Currently, only about a quarter of undergraduate students are guaranteed housing, requiring those beyond freshman year to find their own living accommodations. This number is embarrassingly low — the lowest for any UC campus — and may continue to decline, as the UC Board of Regents plans to increase enrollment in coming years.
The campus must transcend its reactive approach to housing. It must match its increased rate of enrollment with a similar increase in housing availability. Otherwise, even incoming students will no longer receive a housing guarantee, let alone the students who seek affordable housing options.
Even though we commend the campus for its new, proactive plan, it will not help alleviate UC Berkeley’s housing crisis if the units are not affordable for a large percentage of students. Already, the campus has leased luxury residence halls that cost individuals more than $1,600 a month, a price few students find reasonable.
There is already a stark socioeconomic divide between the students who can afford Clark Kerr and Unit 3, for example. And plans to “densify” Unit 3 to add capacity, threatening a lower quality of living, could exacerbate such divides.
Garden Village, built by the development group Nautilus and leased to campus, illuminates an additional problem. At the beginning of this academic year, students moved into the Garden Village apartments while they were under construction. Although the campus may face financial constraints, it should not rely on outside contractors to build housing. They are not as accountable for meeting deadlines or taking into consideration the affordability of units.
The campus will soon offer a survey, giving students the opportunity to express what they desire in housing options. Considering the difficult decisions the campus must make in the near future, students should take this opportunity to amplify their voices. And with People’s Park labeled as an area for eventual campus housing development, students should remain informed.
UC Berkeley and this very newspaper have a long history with People’s Park, one of the most famous landmarks in our city. But students of a future generation will have to decide at what point we must pave over history to meet present demands.
As the campus moves forward with its housing plans, it must remember whom it intends to serve. The campus must not further disadvantage its own students by building more luxury apartments — Berkeley already has enough of those, thank you very much — and neglecting the living conditions of its lower-income students.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.