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Senate Bill 169 Funding Student Housing: A Commercial and Institutional Vantage Point

03/08/2022 9:40 AM | Cinnamon Thompson (Administrator)

Southern California Development Forum (SCDF), an organization that brings together a community of real estate experts on the latest trends, strategies, projects and provides networking opportunities, hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, discussing Senate Bill 169 and the challenges universities and developers face to build affordable student housing.  

Samuel Jung, Vice President of Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, served as the moderator for the panelists from The Michaels Organization, American Campus Communities, Riverside Community College District, California State University, and Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD).   

SB 169 Funding Student Housing 

Did you know about 400,000 community college students have experienced homelessness in the state of California? That is about the size of the city of Long Beach or Oakland, and larger than the city of Irvine and Santa Ana. This is an alarming issue that university leaders are working tirelessly to find solutions to with the support of the state legislature.   

In September 2021, Governor Newsom signed SB 169, an education bill that would establish the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program, to provide one-time grants for the construction of student housing or for the acquisition and renovation of commercial properties into student housing for the purpose of providing affordable, low-cost housing options for students enrolled in public postsecondary education in the state of California.  

“SB 169 is a starting point and has brought more awareness to the issues and struggles students face, but it certainly is not the end solution,” said Raoul Amescua, Vice President of Development for The Michaels Organization. 

“It’s a step in the right direction for immediate aid,” explains Jason Taylor, Vice President of Public Private Partnerships for American Campus Communities. “Affordable student housing drives students out of the off-campus market and can lower the pressure on the cost of rental housing in the area. Also, students tend to graduate quicker when they live in student housing.” 

Challenges in Building Student Housing  

One of the challenges in building student housing is balancing the support that the housing needs, but keeping it cost efficient and affordable.   

“Student housing needs specific amenities such as dining and study spaces but how do we make housing fit the needs of the students, but still be a Buick instead of a Mercedes,” said Paul Gannoe, Chief of Planning and Design for California State University. 

Homeless and Housing Insecurity  

“It’s important as a district to look at the housing problem and also the insecurity, because being homeless needs immediate attention, but housing insecurity also needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Rueben Smith, Vice Chancellor & Chief Facilities Executive for Los Angeles Community College District. “Once we separate the two, we can provide an immediate impact as well as plans to move forward.”  

In summary, SB 169 is moving in the right direction to provide urgent assistance to address student homelessness in the state of California but the challenge of building student housing is keeping it affordable.  

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