On Tuesday, May 23 at City Council, Chancellor Blumenthal presented some info about the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) to the government and locals of Santa Cruz. This marked the first time that UCSC has officially announced news about the next 2020-2040 LRDP to the local community since various local groups sued to invalidate the environmental impact reports for the last LRDP, resulting in the 2008 Comprehensive Settlement Agreement—and there was a palpable awareness of past and present tensions between the city and the campus.
Following the chancellor’s presentation, we, Students United with Renters — a new campus/local organization working to build relationships between students and the greater Santa Cruz community for the common goal of attaining equal access to affordable housing— addressed both the chancellor and the city government with several demands. We made these demands for many different reasons, but we chose this presentation because we believe that if the UC is planning to continue to increase the student population then it should protect locals and students from further exploitation as renters/tenants. We are demanding that the city institute rent control with both formal and informal just cause eviction protections, along with a mandatory requirement for 50 percent low-income housing inclusion for private developers on and off campus.
Additionally, we demand the decriminalization of homelessness and poverty meaning the immediate reversal of the sleeping/camping ban, which targets and punishes locals and students who are forced to live precariously, rather than addressing the root causes of houselessness by providing services and shelter. From the university, we’re demanding a proactive, community-inclusive stance on these issues and the formation of an independent, UC-funded tenant union that serves both students and locals to advocate for tenants’ rights and provide resources to the community.
Many students and workers involved in our organization have prior experience with the housing crisis in Santa Cruz. Aside from personally experiencing the financial burden of keeping up with market-rate rooms in order to live where we learn and work, some of us have had the opportunity to learn directly about local community members’ struggles by participating in the No Place Like Home undergraduate research project. Their surveys and interview data have shown that on the west side, 73% of residents experience rent burden and 32 percent experience overcrowding. Rents are skyrocketing, landlord abuse and developer buyouts are rampant, and people all over the county (and the nation) are being displaced from their homes while property owners make huge profits and pay low taxes. It’s time for students to apply the findings of their research and get involved in curbing the local housing crisis.
We hope that our demands will help kick-start of a local housing rights movement that unites students, locals, and all those affected by increasing rents to demand sensible policy changes and UC accountability. If you’d like to stay updated, or if you’d like to get involved and help out with outreach and organizing over the summer, you can find us on Facebook or at studentsunitedwithrenters.org!