What does it say about a city when the price of the average rental has increased 23.5 percent since last year? To Bradley Jin, UC Santa Cruz fourth-year and researcher with the No Place Like Home (NPLH) project, it means the Santa Cruz community is reaching a breaking point.
“People are becoming homeless, both students and locals and something needs to be done,” Jin said.
He said Measure M on the upcoming ballot may be a start.
On Oct. 15, Students United with Renters (SUR) hosted a teach-in workshop at Kresge Town Hall about upcoming housing measures on the Nov. 6 ballot:, Measure M and Proposition 10. Voices included community organizers and representatives from local census groups like NPLH, as well as voter registration tables and SUR-endorsed campaign information booths.
Measure M and Prop. 10 both pertain to rent control, but Prop. 10 is a statewide measure whereas Measure M only affects Santa Cruz. Measure M would place a cap on rent increases and establish an elected Rent Board and just cause evictions for tenants. Meanwhile, Prop. 10 would dissolve the Costa-Hawkins Act, which limits a city’s ability to establish a blanket rent control policy by making housing units built after February of 1995 immune to rent caps.
“Students make up a very large portion of the town, and they deserve to have their voices heard and they deserve to know what’s going on around them,” Jin said. “We think that with their help, we can fight for housing justice.”
The teach-in aimed to present an analysis of local and state- level housing policies so students who will be affected by them could gain a better understanding of the matters at hand — like the impacted rental market in Santa Cruz, skyrocketing rent prices and the possible repeal of Costa-Hawkins.
Speakers touched on the history of the rent control policy in California, and their own struggles with housing and dispelled common misconceptions about Measure M.
“I hope students have a more critical understanding of the housing crisis, because usually the dominant narrative is taken over by people who are property owners,” said fifth-year transfer student and coordinator of the Student Union Housing Working Group (SUHWG) Thảo Lê. “We hope this will encourage students to build power with one another, to confront the issues that we have both on and off campus in terms of housing.”
The teach-in also addressed on-campus housing concerns. While Measure M would not extend to the university’s grounds, it would establish a firm market rate for the city which the school could mirror to compete with off-campus housing according to, Lê said.
There have been numerous public information sessions on the Student Housing West project, proposed to bring 3,072 new beds to UCSC, but the university has not held any similar meetings to discuss the city’s housing crisis or the policies that which may affect the school.
Despite the university’s silence, student attendees were glad SUR took initiative and offered to offer the policy analysis. According to one student, who wished to remain anonymous, the SUR meeting offered a unique presentation of the information, by and for students.
“The university attempts to seem neutral in these things, when they’re not neutral issues,” the student said. “Students aren’t forced to be in a place where they have to seem neutral, [so] the information makes more sense and is not as contradictory because they’re not trying to pretend certain parts of it don’t exist.”
However, despite the impact Measure M may have, university housing remains severely lacking in resources and availability. The university recently reduced guaranteed housing for transfers from two years to one, and from four years to three for EAP students. Incoming freshmen also experienced a reduction, now looking only at two years on campus.
“[UCSC] hasn’t been able to account for that housing — so most people are going to be moving off campus at some point. Even if they’re not, we think they should be educated about what’s going on around them,” said NPLH researcher Bradley Jin. “Students have power if we work together. If we believe that we can change something, we can.”
Additional reporting by Stephania Pérez-Allende