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My name is Juan Giovanni Guerrero, and I am the Associated Students President of Cal Poly Humboldt. My role is to serve as the official voice of the student body and to ensure that institutional and community changes are impactful and reflective of student’s needs.
Cal Poly Humboldt (CPH) will experience substantial enrollment growth in the coming decade, and our current housing supply, both on and off campus, just isn’t going to cut it. Lower vacancy rates will lead to larger rent increases, more discrimination by landlords and more folks becoming unhoused.
We are in the midst of a housing crisis. Without swift action the situation will only worsen and impacts will be felt by both students and non-student residents, starting with the most marginalized.
CPH enrollment currently sits at around 5,800 students and is expected to grow to 11,000 by 2027. By next year, enrollment is projected to reach 7,400. In previous years our enrollment numbers reached as high as 8,500 students, and during those times one in five students were estimated to be homeless.
To accommodate enrollment growth, CPH recently announced that most of the 2,000 beds on campus will be unavailable to returning students, leaving lots of students frantic as the prospect of obtaining off-campus housing is dim.
Finding affordable off-campus housing has always been difficult — particularly for BIPOC, non-binary and non-traditional students, such as students with children — and now competition for the limited supply will be compounded.
There are plans to develop additional dorm housing, but the relief for returning students will not be felt in time. Nor will it be enough. The 1,000-bed Craftsman Mall Project is set to be completed by 2025 and the bridge housing will provide some temporary relief. But a substantial number of students now and in the future will need to find housing in the community.
While the University’s decision to prioritize incoming freshmen is understandable, this situation could have been avoided if previous efforts to increase housing had been successful.
The Village, a proposed housing development introduced in 2015, was similar to the planned Craftsman Mall project but died amid fierce opposition from neighbors. The plans were downsized multiple times to appease public concerns, but after years of delays the developers withdrew interest.
CPH purchased the land to develop housing on the Craftsman Mall property, but the resultant project has been delayed by half a decade. Now we are well into 2023 with an insufficient supply of new homes built since then. Had that project been approved, we would not be facing the same extent of housing insecurity that we are today.
I highlight these concerns because housing scarcity affects young and low-income people the most. As it stands, our housing supply is limited and if inaction on housing development continues demand will be exacerbated and rents across Arcata and surrounding communities will increasingly become unaffordable. I know this because my rent went up $100 a month just last year and I’m sure that’s true for many other renters.
Despite these challenges, there is a bright future for our community. Arcata is working towards groundbreaking new zoning in the Gateway Area Plan, which would allow for a more straightforward permitting process, allowing housing be built according to standards outlined in the code.
This new zoning may spur much needed development. Unfortunately, the development of the Gateway Area Plan has run into the same buzzsaw of concerned neighbors. Often missing from this conversation is the collective student voice. Students support the construction of new homes.