Campus students rally for affordable student housing Friday

Karin Goh/Senior Staff

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About 20 students rallied Friday to demand affordable student housing, as part of the ASUC-sponsored Housing and Tenants’ Rights Week.

The rally, held on the steps of Sproul Hall, was organized by the ASUC Student Housing Committee created by the ASUC External Affairs Vice President’s Office. It capped off a week of workshops and events meant to inform students and pressure the campus to create more affordable housing, according to Chris Yamas, ASUC Housing Affairs manager.

“We are here to demand that we get the proper treatment that we deserve, that we get the student housing that we need, so that we can afford to live here and to be students here without going into massive student debt,” Yamas said.

Matthew Lewis, the ASUC director of local affairs and chair of the ASUC Student Housing Committee, said that the average percentage of undergraduates living on campus for UC campuses was about 37 percent and that UC Berkeley was the lowest for undergraduates at 25 percent.

According to city Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, the lack of student housing exerts more pressure on the rental housing market in Berkeley, making it more difficult for nonstudents to find housing.

All freshmen would be offered on-campus housing, Adam Ratliff, communications manager for student affairs, said in an email, as well as a fraction of transfer students. He also said that if completed in about 18 months as proposed, the Stiles Hall housing project would provide housing for about 770 students.

Stiles Hall’s approximately 770 beds would not be enough to accommodate the students arriving in the future, said Boomer Vicente, an ASUC senator and member of the Student Housing Committee, especially with the increased enrollment of 750 freshmen and transfer students next year alone.

According to an email from Ratliff, the campus has looked into creative housing solutions, such as off-campus housing in nearby areas. Additionally, the UC Office of the President announced in January the Student Housing Initiative, geared toward providing 14,000 additional beds to UC campuses by 2020.

“I think we need to acknowledge that the president has made a commitment to build thousands of units of student housing,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “We need to praise President (Janet) Napolitano.”

On March 8, Berkeley City Council will vote on whether to send a letter to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks demanding that the campus develop a plan to address students’ housing needs, Arreguin said. He added that City Council will also call on the state Legislature to provide more funding for university student housing.

Contact Shradha Ganapathy at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sganapathy_dc.