Combating The California Housing Crisis

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In the 1980s, it was predominantly low-income, middle-aged adults struggling to find a place to settle down. Almost 40 years later, it is now college graduates. 

Many have high-paying jobs after college but are unable to find an affordable place to live in a state with the world’s fifth-largest economy.

Experts attribute this to the ongoing affordable housing crisis in California. Most talk about the crisis is centered around how densely populated urban areas that are seeing a spike in STEM jobs, but there are few places in the state where finding housing comes easy. 

Among metropolitan areas, Riverside ranks highest among cities where young adults still live at home after graduating from college with a rate of 51 percent.

The crisis is so bad throughout the state that even starter homes in Palo Alto and the Bay Area can easily cost upwards of seven figures. Despite decades of legislative pushes, things only appear to be getting worse.

California businesses believe they can help. Silicon Valley tech giants have invested and donated billions into their own backyard to help expand affordable housing opportunities through grants and low-interest loans for homebuyers. 

There is a catch, though,  from these companies: Only those who are employed by them are eligible for the relief, and most of the land remains in the companies’ possession after the lease is up.

This summer, Google pledged $1 billion to help with the crisis in the Bay Area, which was preceded by Facebook’s $500 million donation at the start of the year.

However, companies cannot expect to solve the housing problem on their own, said Dr. Keenan Alderson, professor of business, unless local governments do their part.

“The ideal thing is a partnership between many different stakeholders: cities, counties, companies and businesses are all responsible,” Alderson said. 

For the companies such as Apple and Google that have indirectly contributed to the housing bubble, he said they owe it to their employees to find them a place to live.

Alderson, who has also worked as a real estate broker since 2011, said aligning public and private interests to solve the housing crisis is the most effective way to get young people to buy homes without breaking the bank.

That is exactly what Mayor Rusty Bailey, who has been the mayor of Riverside since 2012, is trying to achieve.

“We need to see businesses and nonprofits working side-by-side with government,” Bailey said.

One way the mayor is looking to align Riverside’s government with local businesses is through a $33 million grant to develop new affordable housing units throughout the city. 

Those grants will be directed toward keeping low-income families in homes and off the streets, in addition to the city’s “Housing First” policy initiative. 

However, Bailey said that alone is not enough to boost affordable housing in Riverside. Unless more continues to be done, the crisis will only get more complicated.

“If we can’t address this soon, our children and young people will have no other option but to leave California to find another place to live,” Bailey said.

CBU has not been completely immune to its own housing complications either. The 2019 fall semester will be the second time in two years in which more students applied to live on campus than spots available.

Jacob Medieros, Housing Operations manager, said although the university never advocated for incoming freshmen to seek off-campus housing, it was forced to place some students on a waitlist. When some students began to cancel their reservations, however, spots opened up.

“As of right now, we have placed everyone on that list (and) there are a few vacancies still available,” Medieros said. “We are constantly trying to improve the student experience.”

Housing Services seeks to do this through new innovations for those living on campus, including automated access check-in, streamlined housing applications and student room self-selection. More beds were also added within existing units in the Village.

Upperclassmen can also look forward to  another 500 beds being added when Magnolia Crossings opens in fall 2020. This will be a significant increase to help ensure  all students have access to housing and avoid placement on the waitlist.

Although CBU is working on solving its own version of a housing crisis as enrollment continues to grow, California still has quite a long way to go before some of its own people can call the state their home.

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