ASUC Priorities Must Support Housing

Andy Katz is the director of the ASUC Commission on Housing and Student Life in the ASUC External affairs office. Respond at [email protected]

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My best friend is in a cramped triple in Unit 3. My second cousin is a 45-minute walk from campus. A friend of mine has been trying for three weeks to get his landlord to eliminate the rats that crawl through the holes in her walls. Students have walked into our office to say they are moving to Oakland because they cannot afford to live in Berkeley.

Worst yet, the campus community suffered a loss when a student's building was not up to code for fire safety.

The ASUC will not sit by and watch student life diminish because of the lack of and poor quality of housing. I have introduced a bill to the ASUC Senate that will make great strides in taking proactive leadership to alleviate the housing problem.

Students need housing that is C.A.L.: Close, Affordable, and Livable. The ASUC External Affairs office and the ASUC Commission on Housing and Student Life (CHSL), will continue to work together to work with local residents and officials to include more housing in city and university plans including the Southside Plan, General Plan, Underhill Area Projects, and New Century Plan. We will also track and support projects that meet our community needs, while working with the city and AC Transit to improve the class pass and plan a transportation network complementing the housing. If more students can live close to campus, fewer will be forced to commute.

Although the bill provides funds for publicity and student organizing for city government and UC Regents meetings, it moves beyond advocacy with three essential programs for students. The housing projects and grants division will take proactive leadership to seek out non-profit and government assistance to create affordable housing.

The survey and research division needs funding to sustain our most powerful tool: information. Last year's ASUC Housing Survey was cited by Berkeley city planners and the joint University-City Transportation Study, demonstrating that when we have the resources to conduct credible research, we will get taken seriously. We will also study in depth the effects of the University's auxiliary facilities distinction, the housing problem on access to the university, the student entertainment sector, lighting and street repairs, and other issues related to student life.

The tenant's rights and services division will provide two greatly needed programs for students: Tenant's Rights Week, and the Rental Video program. There is no other way for students to learn their rights as tenants unless the ASUC CHSL and Renter's Legal Assistance work with the Berkeley Rent Stabilization board to inform tenants of their rights. Only 11 percent of students report to know their rights as tenants. This is a crisis of empowerment, and we need to be wary of illegal evictions and housing code negligence.

The Rental Video program has been successful at UC Santa Barbara, and UC Berkeley is long overdue for this partnership with the Berkeley Rent Board. When a tenant moves into a room or apartment, the ASUC will videotape the condition of the apartment so landlords can't unfairly withhold security deposits.

The dire condition of housing at UC Berkeley should show students and the ASUC that taking action to combat the problem must be a priority.


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