Members of ASUCI’s Legislative Affairs Commission, Associated Graduate Students Legislative Affairs and College Democrats at UCI are organizing an advocacy action at Irvine City Hall this Tuesday, Feb. 14 addressing student food and housing insecurity. Students are expected to speak to elected officials at the Irvine City Council meeting at 4 p.m.
Cassius Rutherford, UCI political science student and Secretary for the Democrats of Greater Irvine, helped organize the action. He said that it is designed to make the concerns of students visible to elected officials who often overlook the financial challenges UCI students face in Irvine and other affluent areas in Orange County.
“Housing insecurity is commonly felt by students at UCI who face the high cost of rent from the local property market,” said Rutherford. “While financial aid and income from employment have made me fortunate enough not to experience issues with housing security, many students live in Irvine Company apartments with six or more residents in a two-bedroom apartment just to keep the rent affordable, and then are burdened by the strict two-car limits for many apartments paired with the lack of any effective public transportation in our city.”
According to a 2015 Orange County Community Indicators Report, the county’s homeless and housing-insecure student population has increased 230 percent in the past decade. Proportionately, Orange County also has more students with insecure housing than the statewide average and all California regions besides the Riverside and San Bernardino regions.
USC’s Lusk Center for Real Estate reported in 2016 that average rent in Orange County, at $1,587 per month, is higher than averages in Los Angeles, Inland Empire and San Diego counties. Irvine’s average rent is even higher than the Orange County average, at $1,866 per month.
In addition to addressing issues of housing insecurity, the advocacy action is designed to amplify student political involvement at UCI, where ASUCI has worked in recent years to increase student voter registration and turnout. After the culmination of last year’s 60 by 16 voter registration campaign, more students voted in the City Council and Mayor’s race than in UCI’s history.
Rutherford said that although co-organized by College Democrats at UCI, the advocacy action is nonpartisan, and all students are encouraged to join.
“The issue of housing insecurity bears no discrepancy to party affiliation, and I believe that all students should care about this issue,” said Rutherford. “However, with only one Democrat on the city council despite an unprecedented voter registration advantage for Democrats in Irvine, the key to making progress on this issue is pressuring the Republican officials to stand up to developer interests and support students and working class residents.”
Students can gather in front of the flagpoles at 3:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 14 for carpools to the action Irvine City Hall. The City Council meeting is expected to run from 4-7 p.m.