It is the policy of UC Berkeley to exploit student families. Rents at UC Village Family Housing have reached an all-time high putting units at or above market rates. Originally created to be a supportive and affordable environment for students with families, UC Village is now little more than a revenue source for the university.

The administrators for Residential and Student Services Programs (RSSP), the department that operates student housing, are very aware of the dire financial circumstances of residents. For two decades residents have taken part in countless meetings with administrators, given public testimonials to the UC Board of Regents, conducted surveys, written reports, produced documentaries, authored petitions, and staged protests. In 2004, residents even filed a lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents over the demolition of affordable housing. Despite these student efforts, the administration continued forward with its profit-driven agenda.

In flagrant disregard for the recommendations of the Future of Student Family Housing Task Force conducted in 1997, the university began the first wave of affordable housing demolition in 1998-2000. Replacement units, while aesthetically pleasing, were no longer affordable with rents essentially doubling [1, 2]. The findings of the task force composed of both students and RSSP administrators stated that rates should have been kept 15% below market rate. It also recommended that subsidies and scholarships should be used for rent assistance for poor families. Coincidentally, the same administrators present on the task force have received rises in both pay and rank within the administration [3].

Administrators have long paid lip service to affordable housing [4]. However the actions taken by RSSP indicate the university’s true agenda. Yearly rent increases are a recurring event. Based on the records found, RSSP has increased rents every year with a single exception in 2009. During a meeting between the Village Residents Association (VRA) and RSSP, regarding rent increases where the VRA presented evidence from the 2013 Affordability Survey indicating that 70% of families survive on less than a living wage, and 45% are reliant on food assistance [5], a RSSP administrator told the VRA to give them an argument against rent increases that was not morally based.

As with previous increase, the 3% rent hike implemented in July of 2014 will not lead to the improvement of the services for residents and was never intended for that purpose. Based on the financial information provided by RSSP the rent that residents pay not only fully covers UC Village operating costs but also generates a surplus which goes back to RSSP. Ironically, despite the overall atmosphere of austerity and repetitive explanations from RSSP that there is no money for improvements to village services, RSSP administrators have received
consistent increases in salary.

During a recent community meeting in response to a series of assaults and armed robberies in the village, the Assistant Vice Chancellor of RSSP stated that the budget does not allow for a police officer to patrol the Village at night after 11pm. Absent from this conversation however, was the fact that the Vice Chancellor of RSSP received an 18.6% bonus in 2013, ($25,000) as well as raises of 11.3% in 2012 and 7.71% in 2011 [6].

It is time for the university to stop balancing its budget on the backs of student families. Please join us as we demand the administration listen the community and make good on their promises of affordability.

To support student families, sign the petition: http://chn.ge/1v6SF1g

For more information, contact the VRA at ucbvra@gmail.com

References

[1] “Through the Roof: Village Rent Rises“ Daily Californian, September 9 1998.

[2] “An Angry Village” East Bay Express, April 28 2000

[3] Recommendations from the Future of Student Family Housing Task Force. February 3, 1997

[4] 2004 UC Village Master Plan, http://www.cp.berkeley.edu/CP/Projects/UVA/MasterPlan_061804.pdf

[5] http://www.ucberkeleyvra.org/uploads/1/4/9/6/14961714/survey_report-aug.pdf

[6] https://ucannualwage.ucop.edu/wage/

 

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