Group living amendments are a testament to the power of student activism

CITY AFFAIRS: The amendments to the Group Living Accommodations Ordinance are a step in the right direction for student housing. But now it’s up to the city to follow through.

The recent amendments to the Group Living Accommodations, or GLA, Ordinance, are significant examples of how student activism can give rise to much-needed change.  

Berkeley is in a housing crisis that students are anything but sheltered from. The campus has time and again fallen short on providing sufficient solutions to this growing problem — as of March 2018, UC Berkeley only houses 22 percent of undergraduates and 9 percent of graduate students. Rent prices in the city continue to rise, rendering housing increasingly exclusionary and unfeasible for students. Students are often forced to look for housing independently and have turned to group living situations as affordable options.

GLA ordinances apply to any address that has six or more occupants. And unless the recent amendments are passed, the ordinance makes it easy to evict residents for violations. The original ordinance did not include any student input. Students fought to change this and to more clearly and fairly define its boundaries — and they succeeded. The City/UC/Student Relations Committee approved the recommendations Sept. 24, and now an official “yes” vote from City Council is the only remaining obstacle to finalizing the amendments.

With these amendments, students in group housing don’t have to worry about being evicted for minor offenses, such as repeated noise complaints or public intoxication. The amendments even include specific protections for survivors, who previously could face housewide evictions for reporting a housemate for assault. These changes ensure some stability for students who are facing an incredibly tumultuous housing environment in addition to the strain of schoolwork.

But the removal of stricter regulations must be supplemented with increased student responsibility and more measures to protect and support residents within group housing. For one, students must encourage each other to consume substances responsibly. And there should be more procedures in place, particularly in Greek housing and co-ops, to ensure that students feel comfortable reporting sexual violence if they choose to.

This is an important step in the right direction for housing security — and these amendments are not the only examples of student activism surrounding the issue of housing. The More Student Housing Now Resolution, adopted by City Council on Jan. 23, is another example of the strength of unified action. The resolution is also working to combat gentrification caused by the influx of students into the city, showing that students — while dealing with housing insecurity themselves — also recognize the impact their presence has on Berkeley residents. Clearly, students have engaged with city politics and are pushing for more responsible development.

But now it’s on the city to demonstrate its commitment to students. City Council, you must meet the campus community halfway — students have done their part. Now it’s up to you.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.