Check out the letter that a concerted effort of students from UC Berkeley worked on across party lines, including Senator Jorge Pacheco, Evan Bell, and our Legislative Director Erick Torres. Remember to tell your city council and mayor to do the right thing: support students in passing this amendment to the the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee!
To the Honorable Mayor Tom Bates and Berkeley City Council:
It is the unanimous opinion of the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley that affordable housing is essential to a large portion of students in the Berkeley community. As such, the ASUC believes that the Berkeley Student Cooperative should be granted a blanket exemption from the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee.
Despite the fact that the BSC does provide affordable housing to low income students, the language of the the affordable housing mitigation fee cannot be equitably applied to the BSC’s unique structure. The policy has strict verification guidelines requiring Berkeley housing units to provide income information on each of its residents in order to receive an exemption. As a non-profit organization, it would be cost prohibitive for the BSC to individually verify each of its 1,323 members. Yet BSC apartment rates are low and already meet the fee’s standards. Additionally, the ASUC believes that the BSC’s room and board rates are low comparable to other options in the area, being almost half the rate of UC Berkeley’s dormitories for example.
It should be further noted that the BSC provides EOP students, as verified by the UC Berkeley financial aid office, with priority registration. EOP students are defined as Pell Grant recipients, a grant which goes mostly to students with a total family income below $20,000 dollars. The proposed policy defines a very low income household as a household with a combined income of less than 50% of the area median income (currently calculated at $28,000). Since the housing mitigation fee requires that development projects seeking an exemption to the fee provide 10% of its units at rental rates affordable to very low-income households, it is clear that the BSC not only meets this obligation but exceeds it. Any further development undertaken by the BSC can be expected to continue this trend of affordable housing for low income students.
The BSC’s mission statement is to provide a quality, low-cost, cooperative housing community to university students, thereby providing an educational opportunity for students who might not otherwise be able to afford a university education. This is the principle by which the organization operates, and by which it will to continue operate. If the purpose of the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee is to ensure continued affordable housing in Berkeley, but imposing the fee on the BSC will only work to defeat its intentions.
A blanket BSC exemption would allow the organization to expand without needless financial burden on the organization and its membership. It would also partially address the glaring absence of any mention of student housing within the policy. Please reinforce the City’s commitment to affordable student housing by granting the Berkeley Student Cooperative an exemption from the affordable housing mitigation fee.
Thank you for your time.