News in Brief: Meeting Looks for Solutions to Housing Crunch, Rent Increase

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Berkeley residents, concerned about the lack of affordable housing and increasing rent in the city, met Monday night to discuss possible plans to relieve their situation.

The Affordable Housing Advocacy Project meeting attracted city officials and residents alike who are worried about the mushrooming crisis.

"Affordable housing is one of the most important issues in Berkeley," said Tom Kelley, a District 5 Green Party candidate for City Council. "The need is fast outstripping its availability. We need to think in a more creative fashion."

Recent setbacks to begin affordable housing projects include the pending process of passing the Five Year and Annual Plan, which will revise housing policy in Berkeley.

The plan would implement such changes as allowing Section 8 tenants to use their vouchers to pay a mortgage, and prohibiting the Housing Authority from raising residents' rent when their welfare benefits are reduced.

Another major obstacle to implementing new housing projects has been community members who believe that affordable housing will bring down property values, said Sean Heron, a representative from East Bay Housing Organizations.

"Housing will never be built unless there is approval and advocacy at the community level," Heron said. "People think affordable housing has to look like 'The Projects' and they have a negative perception of the people who will live there."

Affortable housing is defined by the East Bay Housing Organization as rent costing no more than 30 percent of an individual's income.

Heron urged Berkeley residents to voice their opinion on the matter to city and county officials.

"They need to hear you say that you want affordable housing," he said. "If there is not a group of people who are vocal then nothing will happen."

Debra Cannistraci, a Berkeley resident and coordinator for the Angel Wings Patient Outreach Patient Rescue, was adamant about demanding an answer to the problem.

"The issue is immediate," she said. "Residents, including disabled people and senior citizens, should not be on the street at any time."


Education Abroad Program Expands to Philippines

In addition to the 130 current exchange campuses around the world, next spring UC students will be able to study in the Philippines, university officials announced yesterday.

In April 2001, the UC Education Abroad Program hopes to add the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University to its list of exchange campuses worldwide.

Despite increasing demand, previous attempts to establish a reciprocal exchange program between UC campuses and the Philippines have failed due to conflicts in the academic calendar. The university recently abandoned its exchange program with Indonesia due to political hostility, illustrating the precarious nature of international projects.

This program is believed to be the first of its kind between the United States and the island nation. Not only will it provide academic and language instruction but also a "real- world" component, in which Filipino students will study domestic and social issues in the U.S. through internships.

A need to get UC students into the world helped drive the program's development, said director Peter Wollitzer.

"While Californian students are ethnically diverse, their international experiences are often limited," Wollitzer said. "These students are heading toward future employment in an increasingly international climate. Internationalism is an important part of a modern education."

The addition of Filipino universities is just the beginning of the university's ambitious long-term plans for the exchange program. The university hopes the number of Californian students studying abroad will have doubled by 2010, Wollitzer said.

In the meantime, the Education Abroad Program will continue to increase the number of visiting foreign students and staff on campus.

"It would be great if every Californian student could study abroad," Wollitzer said. "The next best thing is to enrich UC intellectual life through a reciprocal flow of visiting faculty."



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