What State Senate Bill 886 Means for College Housing

As the housing crisis continues, Californians continue to face the issues that it brings, but college students have been feeling the effects since before the pandemic. Back in 2017, UC Berkeley conducted a survey that found that around ten percent of students were facing homelessness, twenty percent of which were post-doctoral students.1 In 2019, California Community Colleges found that 19 percent of their students had been homeless and 60 percent had faced housing insecurity.2 More recently, the UCLA Center for Transformation of Schools found that homelessness is affecting five percent of UC students, ten percent of CSU students, and 20 percent of students attending community college in California.3 While these percentages may not seem dire, it is important to keep in mind how many people attend these colleges and universities. According to the Los Angeles Times, “More than 16,000 students at the University of California and California State University were on waitlists for housing,” last fall.4

California colleges are working to address this issue, but past legislation has been holding them up. In fact, many college towns like Hayward and San Marcos have spent millions of dollars on various forms of student housing.5 Along the way there have been roadblocks that have made these projects more expensive, but some recent legislation may be a light at the end of this cracking tunnel. In their 2021 study, the Legislative Analyst’s Office found that CEQA may be holding up the construction of new campus housing.6 The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, is an environmental law that was enacted in 1970. The law requires local and state agencies to follow a careful procedure to analyze and inform the public about the environmental impact of projects throughout California.7 The process takes many steps that ensure the state does not pursue projects that would greatly worsen our environmental impact, but it can also create a lot of push back for housing projects. Luckily, a recent state senate bill will allow colleges to brush past these push backs. SB 886, which passed back in September, will allow the CEQA process to be streamlined for college housing projects.8 Of course, there are a few requirements for these projects like being built by a well-paid, skilled, union workforce. Other requirements include: not emitting additional greenhouse gasses, not hindering traffic, not being on dangerous land or needing to demolish existing housing, and being LEED platinum certified.7 The LEED platinum certification is the highest level of certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design project, which is managed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

If universities create projects that meet these requirements and are allowed to easily navigate the CEQA process, they will be able to address this crisis faster and at a lower cost.7 The result of this is getting students the housing they need in order to stay focused on their studies instead of where they will be sleeping each night. Additionally, the faster these projects can begin, the sooner more jobs will be created in the construction sector.

Molly Mellon // CIRB Journalism Intern

1 See UC Berkeley Office of Planning & Analysis, “Housing Survey Findings”

2 See Goldrick-Rab et al, “California Community Colleges #RealCollege Survey”

3 See UCLA Center for Transformation of Schools, “State of Crisis: Dismantling Student Homelessness in California”

4 See Los Angeles Times, “California college students live in vans and hotels as campus housing plans spark backlash”

5 See Construction Industry Research Board, “Non-Residential Valuation”

6 See Legislative Analyst’s Office, “Overview of Student of Housing”

7 See Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, “CEQA 101”

8 See California YIMBY, “SB 886”