Students Lead Fight Against Housing Insecurity
In an ongoing effort to secure affordable student housing in Irvine, ASUCI’s Legislative Affairs Commission met with the Irvine Land Trust Board on April 17, and made a public presentation on the issue of student housing insecurity.
“We’re continuing with our push to lobby the city to address student housing insecurity in the absence of any meaningful action by UCI [administration],” said UCI undergraduate and Secretary of the Democrats of Greater Irvine, Cassius Rutherford.
In an issue summary given to the Irvine Land Trust Board, students noted that as UC Irvine received over 100,000 applications this year and is enrolling thousands more students each fall, “UCI is not building housing fast enough to accommodate the growing student population.”
More than 1,300 students at UCI (or five percent of the campus’s student body) “can be categorized as homeless,” said the student presenters. Orange
County’s homeless and housing-insecure student population has increased by over 230 percent in the past ten years, and currently totals more than 32,000, according to a 2015 Orange County Community Indicators Report (OCCIR). Rutherford noted that this is largely due to the scarcity of affordable housing in one of California’s most expensive counties, where the poverty rate still averages 24 percent.
“We need more housing at below-market rates that would assure that the City of Irvine can provide housing for all income levels, especially that of students,” the presenters said in a statement.
The Irvine Land Trust, created by the City of Irvine, is an “independent nonprofit organization created to oversee affordable housing and preserve it for future generations,” according to their mission statement. The Community Land Trust (CLT) is a “model of homeownership” which leases affordable, CLT-owned land to home buyers and renters, including to University of California faculty and staff throughout the state. The first UC campus to adopt this model was Irvine, in the mid-1980s.
Student presenters acknowledged during the meeting that “the land trust is limited in its capacity for direct action in this issue,” but presented a list of policy demands within the scope of Irvine Land Trust’s power.
These demands include increasing development of lower-cost housing units in Irvine; the Land Trust’s current goal is only 9,700 affordable housing units by 2025. Additionally, students hope to open “more avenues for students to access the existing supply of affordable housing, as long waitlist periods prevent most students from even applying for affordable housing in Irvine.”
The meeting was one in a series of UCI student presentations to local politicians and housing boards, including a Feb. 14 presentation to Irvine City Council. ASUCI’s Legislative Affairs Commission is organizing another large-scale action at the Irvine City Council meeting on May 9 to continue advocating for policy solutions related to student housing insecurity.
After the meeting with the Irvine Land Trust, student presenters encouraged board members to make “any housing policy recommendations … that can be forwarded to the [Irvine] City Council” before next week’s meeting, as this “would be an important step to addressing the housing needs of low-income residents and students.”
CORRECTION: The print version of this article stated that the action series was led by College Democrats at UCI alongside ASUCI’s Legislative Affairs Commission. This housing security initiative is led entirely by ASUCI’s Legislative Affairs Commission. While some Legislative Affairs Commission members are also College Democrats at UCI, they acted in the capacity of the former during their presentation to the Irvine Land Trust.