Student homelessness, low income housing addressed at Berkeley Progressive Alliance meeting

Stephanie Li/Staff

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Taylor Harvey, chair of the UC Berkeley Homeless Student Union and Housing Commission for ASUC, raised awareness of student housing insecurity at the Berkeley Progressive Alliance, or BPA, general membership meeting Sunday.

Held at the South Berkeley Senior Center, the meeting covered upcoming housing policies and student homelessness. Several community leaders appeared alongside Harvey, such as Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Berkeley City Councilmember Kate Harrison.

Harvey spoke to BPA members about her experience with housing insecurity while at UC Berkeley. According to Harvey, UC Berkeley Homeless Student Union began a conversation with the campus administration to understand the lack of resources for housing insecure students. Harvey cited research that found that 11 percent of campus undergraduates experience homelessness at some point during their attendance.

“The housing situation looks like this — the students massively overpopulate the city of Berkeley around the campus,” Harvey said at the event. “Because of that, the renters know that these students are easily exploitable … and they can exploit their lack of knowledge about renting.”

Harvey added that UC Berkeley Homeless Student Union collaborated with a BPA member to establish an informal housing network for students experiencing an emergency housing crisis. The union also works with advocating for students who experience housing insecurity.

“We’re in a housing crisis,” Arreguín said. “We can’t wait two to three years for the city staff to develop a plan. We have to put in place … strategies and funding sources to create affordable housing now.”

After taking office in December, Arreguín said the city has been acquiring funds to address housing and convened a housing task force doing “on the groundwork” for creating housing policies. The task force developed a short-term action plan tackling the housing crisis, which Arreguín said focuses on what can be done within the next two years.

The plan, which is scheduled to be voted on in November by City Council, addresses the tenants displacement crisis and the needs of the homeless community.

Arreguín also mentioned the creation of a 150-unit project in the Berkeley Way Parking Lot in Downtown on Berkeley Way, which would feature an emergency shelter, transitional housing, permanent supportive housing for the homeless community and affordable housing.

Harrison also spoke at the meeting to provide information regarding the allocation of funds, such as taxing short-term rentals so that two-thirds of revenue go to affordable housing. Harrison advocated for transparency in city planning in order to account for low-income housing among new developments.

“Definitely in the case of Kate Harrison and the mayor, they’re constantly thinking about student housing insecurity,” Harvey said after the talk. “There’s a lot of thought about this (housing) map and how it’ll affect students.”

Contact Adrianna Buenviaje at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @adriannaDC.