The Voice of the Students
April 1, 2020
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Public Servants Deserve Berkeley Housing

University Ave homeless encampment shows housing crisis effects.

From the constantly moving camps of homeless people to streets filled with empty houses, the Bay Area is a clear example of a housing crisis. As more people move in, locals are displaced and forced to move into the suburbs in order to live at a somewhat reasonable price. Gentrification is increasing rent prices as speculators flip houses in order to make a huge profit in previously low-income black and brown communities. This crisis has hit every aspect of Bay Area life, but is especially present with public servants. Many teachers in Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD), can barely afford to live where they do and some teachers have been forced to move because of the cost.

In order to properly address this problem, the City of Berkeley has to completely shift its view on housing. All too often, new high-rise apartments are being built at huge costs only to go to the same rich techies who are gentrifying our neighborhoods. Affordable housing seems to be a joke to Berkeley. Housing should be made available to the huge homeless population as well as the many dedicated and underpaid public servants. Berkeley cannot continue to function when it ignores so many residents and leaves them to suffer on the street.

Berkeley needs to implement subsidized land trusts for public servants like teachers and firefighters, as well as unsheltered people in need of affordable housing. The city needs to either pay for new housing or take existing structures and offset their enormous prices with public money. This money could even come from some of the ridiculously wealthy tech companies in Silicon Valley who are mainly responsible for this housing crisis in the Bay Area, some of whom have even offered money towards helping solve this issue. Once this is done, the land should be sold to a community land trust that can primarily function for the public servants that are unable to afford living in Berkeley.

A community land trust essentially allows a group to own a plot of land, often with multiple single family homes or condos on it. With relatively low interest rates guaranteed by government subsidies, all the people living within this trust pay less than the typical rates present in most of the Bay Area. These people will pay the community which will allow for sustainable living for more than just one household. If a person wants to move out, the land trust would guarantee that the house would sell for cheap enough that a new low income family could move in. To ensure this system works, the city should oversee the beginning of this trust, allowing for solely low income people to move in during the first couple of years. Once the trust has been working for a while and the cycle is only benefitting those who need it, Berkeley won’t have to monitor the system anymore.

This system would start small, but ideally grow into a larger community that benefits as many people as possible. The City of Berkeley would be showing its care for those who make the city run while simultaneously stimulating its own economy. Houses would end up costing less, and it would put more disposable income in the pockets of residents. This would allow for more spending at local businesses which could in turn support growth and opportunity within the city.

It’s clear there’s a problem when it comes to housing in the Bay Area. While cities could continue to let this dangerous trend of gentrification occur, it would be immoral to do so. Helping offset costs for public servants, and eventually other residents, would promote diversity and a higher standard of living. Going against this is going against the liberal politics that so many Berkeley residents preach. Change needs to occur. Housing needs to cost less.

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University Ave homeless encampment shows housing crisis effects.

Image by Laila Diaz

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