The UC Santa Barbara Blum Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Democracy hosted a campus housing forum and Q&A session on Thursday, Feb. 22, with panelists from several UCSB organizations. 

The panel addressed points raised in the “People’s Guide” and tackled questions of housing accountability and accessibility. Nina Timofeyava / Daily Nexus

The meeting took place in the University Center Flying A Studios Room with approximately 55 panelists and attendees. Panelists included representatives from Youth Bridge Housing, Isla Vista Tenants Union, UCSB Graduate Student Association, UC graduate student union UAW Local 2865, El Congreso de UCSB and UCSB Campus Democrats. Blum Center student leaders Becky Chen, Hari Priya Chipiri, Frannie Fleming and Reilly Wilson introduced the “A People’s Guide to UCSB’s Student Housing Crisis” and answered questions alongside the representatives.

The panel addressed points raised in the “People’s Guide” and tackled questions of housing accountability and accessibility sourced from the community and delivered by moderator, professor and Blum Center Director Alice O’Connor. 

The meeting took place in the University Center Flying A Studios Room with approximately 55 panelists and attendees. Nina Timofeyeva / Daily Nexus

Community Labor Project student assistant Cole Gerstle opened the event by announcing the Blum Center’s Labor Summer program. Then, the discussion dove into the various sections of the “People’s Guide.” The guide, available online for free, is divided into five primary sections: Current State of the Crisis, Alternative Options, Private Development at UCSB, Central Coast Regional Equity Initiative and California’s Housing Crisis.

The “People’s Guide” is designed to be a living and regularly-updated reference for UCSB housing issues. Second-year sociology and film and media studies double major and Blum Center student assistant Becky Chen introduced the objective of the “People’s Guide” at the forum. 

“It has a comprehensive history, talks about the cancellation of Munger Hall … it should be easily navigable, should be user friendly — we want this to be the one-stop resource,” Chen said.

Presenters of the “People’s Guide” critiqued UCSB and the UC system’s lack of communication about the Ocean Road and cancellation of the Munger Hall housing project, citing UCSB’s inability to secure housing as agreed upon in its 2010 Long Range Development Plan. 

Second-year psychological & brain sciences major and Blum Center student assistant Hari Priya Chipri discussed how a shortage of available beds for students has adversely affected many UCSB students.

“We find ourselves having to make a multitude of sacrifices [when looking for housing]. These houses in Isla Vista are often falling apart — infestations, piping issues, structural issues, you name it,” she said. 

Criticism was also weighed against the UC’s investments into private entities, with particular focus on its 2023 investment of $4 billion into the Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust. The investment has been met with protest, and the “People’s Guide” raises the concern that “the university system’s pension fund is at odds with its pledge to provide affordable student housing.” 

Fourth-year communication major and Blum Center student assistant Reilly Wilson levied these critiques at the event. 

“Instead of prioritizing affordable student housing, the investment arm of the University of California has treated our housing crisis as an opportunity for investment,” she said.

Student representatives from community groups then presented their organizational efforts to address the housing crisis through education and advocacy. Forum members expanded upon points raised in the “People’s Guide.”

El Congreso de UCSB representative fifth-year political science major Andrea Toribio underscored El Congreso’s objective to provide a communal space for grassroots social change and solidarity among marginalized groups, emphasizing intersectional inequalities in housing.

“People of color are the front line in the housing crisis, and they’re going to be the most affected by this,” she said.

Communication graduate student and representative of UAW Local 2865 and UCSB Graduate Student Association Bedlam Oak discussed the shared and particular struggles that graduate students face with housing. They pointed out the adverse effects of financial and time commitments necessary to grapple with housing difficulties for frequently time-crunched and underpaid graduate students. 

“People doing the groundwork of educating — graduate students — have to skip meals, show up to class harried, tired, hungry, confused and still teach section,” they said. “The quality of your education is so inextricable from the housing crisis here … These systemic problems are screwing everybody.”

After all student groups presented, the second half of the event ensued: a Q&A forum among the representatives. 

Moderator O’Connor posed the panelists a variety of questions regarding the university’s accountability in the UCSB housing crisis, implementation of transparent communication on university housing, housing as a public good, the interconnectedness of housing and education and other organizations important to the broader discussion of UCSB housing. 

Panelists emphasized the lack of communication on housing from the university, discussing regular email updates on UCSB housing and increased student representation in decision making for implementing housing as potential solutions, particularly in light of the upcoming San Benito housing project. They referenced coalition-building and community collaboration as key steps in finding remedies to the housing crisis.

UCSB Campus Democrats representative second-year political science major Micah Littlepage criticized the university for their lack of transparency and commitment to expanding housing. 

“They keep repeating, ‘We want to get student input. We want to share it with students’ so much — but how do they plan to share it with us?” he asked. “The university can try to take accountability as much as it wants, but without taking action, it’s worthless.”

To end the event, the conversation opened up to community members, including retired UCSB sociology professor and housing advocate Richard Flacks. Flacks put forth the Mickey Flacks Social Housing Fund, created in memory of his late wife and fellow community activist, as a potential source of funding for student organizers and groups supporting local housing efforts.

Flacks also criticized the university for failing to meet promises of housing and the state legislature for accelerating UC expansion without providing adequate support for housing. 

“Why did [UCSB] depend on a private developer to do Ocean Road?” he asked. “Why have we wasted 10 years on the Munger Project when the plans that were developed more than 10 years ago are what they’re going back to now?”

Already a year in the works by the Blum Center student leader team, the “People’s Guide” will continue to be updated as the UCSB housing crisis develops. O’Connor put forth her perspective as a contributor to the “People’s Guide.” 

“I want people to both read it and cite it — I want it to show up on Google citations. The more common knowledge circulates, the more power it has,” she said. “As new organizing goes on, as new demands well up, this is a venue for updating. We really want to make this a collective knowledge-making as well as organizing project.”

The full “People’s Guide” can be found at