College of the Redwoods, one of just a handful of community colleges in the state to offer on-campus student housing, will soon have a good deal more of it.
This afternoon at CR’s main Eureka campus, California State Senator Mike McGuire and Assemblymember Jim Wood assembled with students and faculty on the steps of the administrative building to announce that the State of California will soon invest $28 million toward the construction of new, affordable student housing onsite.
“Today is an exciting, exciting day for the College of the Redwoods, for the hard-working students of this life-changing campus and for everyone here on the North Coast that calls this beautiful part of the country home,” McGuire said.
This “massive” $28 million investment from the state, packaged within a higher education trailer bill that was recently passed by the legislature, will help build 100 new dorm rooms holding 215 beds, McGuire said. That marks nearly a 35 percent increase over the current on-campus student housing capacity of 160 beds.
“And 181 of these new beds will be designated affordable for the most vulnerable students who call the North Coast home,” McGuire added.
The existing student housing will be demolished due to age and seismic concerns, and construction of the new housing facilities is scheduled to begin in 2026.
While a major windfall for the college, this $28 million represents merely an initial investment toward a total project cost estimated to be between $71 million and $73 million, according to McGuire, who did not say where the rest will come from.
“Look,” he continued, “this investment, it couldn’t come at a more critical time. A recent study found that one in five community college students here in the Golden State have experienced homelessness in the past 12 months. The numbers are even higher here in Humboldt County.”
He noted that over the past 36 months, the State of California has invested nearly half a billion dollars in education-related projects on the North Coast, including $458 million toward the conversion of HSU to Cal Poly Humboldt, $10 million to develop a health care education hub in Arcata and today’s announcement of nearly $30 million more.
McGuire said this investment is “about lifting up our region. It’s about providing the most vulnerable students an opportunity to thrive. It’s about paving a pathway to a stronger middle class here on the North Coast.”
When Wood took the microphone he emphasized the state’s housing crisis and its disproportionate impact on young people. He noted that a 2018 housing assessment found that the City of Eureka had only met 13.9 percent of its housing needs between 2007 and 2014.
“In a survey that same year,” he said, “over 100 CR students identified as facing housing insecurity and/or homelessness, with students reporting moving from couch to couch, living out of their vehicles or camping in the redwoods behind campus in order to attend classes. I will tell you that that didn’t happen when I was going to school, and it shouldn’t happen today. And because of projects like this, it won’t happen in the future.”
Sally Biggin, the president of CR’s board of trustees, remarked on the massive size of the region served by College of the Redwoods, a rural expanse of more than 10,000 square miles spread across three counties.
“The isolation of many of our communities limits [student] access to post-secondary experiences … ,” Biggin said. “Unlike the more urban areas of our state, many of our students cannot live at home and easily commute to our campus. They must relocate, and affordable housing becomes a major issue for them.”
CR President Dr. Keith Flamer was ebulient.
“What a great day,” he said, beaming. He thanked McGuire and Wood for their work securing the funds and said it’s unacceptable for students to be homeless.
Noting that CR has seen an enrollment increase this semester, Flamer said his administration has had to get creative with housing solutions — namely, by working out a deal with the Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria to temporarily house students at the Bear River Casino.
“No, they’re not gambling,” Flamer quipped. “At least they better not be gambling.”
Next to the mic was Gabriel Brooks, a student and current senator in the Associated Students of College of the Redwoods. Standing in front of many fellow students, including members of the CR women’s softball team and both men’s and women’s basketball teams, Brooks said he suddenly became homeless during his first semester.
“For months I struggled to survive, and school became my last priority,” he said. “Finding housing felt impossible between low availability and rising costs. I believed I would not be able to continue with college. When I found out I could live on campus at CR it changed my life.”
Brooks said he was able to focus on his studies once he moved into the campus dorms, and in the spring he will be graduating with his associate degree and transferring to Cal Poly Humboldt’s social work program.
“Affordable housing is the key factor to academic success, not to mention a tenet of student wellbeing,” Brooks said. “This project recognizes students not only as learners, but as people. It directly empowers students to shift from surviving to thriving — personally, academically and beyond.”
After his speech, McGuire and Wood presented Flamer with an oversized commemorative check made out to College of the Redwoods in the amount of $28 million.
“And then the good president is running to the bank before it bounces,” McGuire joked.
The Outpost will release more details about the funding and the plans for new housing when they become available.