The University of California, Berkeley is exploring the possibility of opening up a campus in Richmond. Community-based organizations and the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society took a closer look at how expansion could change the Richmond community.
Community organizers and members of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society’s team spoke with residents who are concerned that expansion could make the area prohibitively expensive to live in. (Affordable housing is a scarce commodity in the Bay Area.)
Renters in Richmond are particularly vulnerable, as almost half of all community members are low-income and putting at least 30% of their income toward rent.
According to a press release from the Haas Institute:
The proposed campus will increase housing demand without increasing the supply. Richmond is one of few areas in the Bay Area’s urban core with relatively affordable housing. The majority of residents near the proposed campus site are renters, and according to the study, “Richmond has some of the highest concentration of low income renters within the region.” The effect may cause the already at-risk population to relocate to more affordable housing in the outer-suburbs.
The Haas Institute points to several likely consequences of constructing a new campus:
- Housing supply will lag far behind skyrocketing demand. As average rents increase, low-income families and workers will be forced to uproot their lives and leave Richmond.
- As people seek affordable housing farther from urban areas with higher concentrations of jobs, their commutes will increase, contributing to a spike in carbon emissions.
- Negative consequences can be lessened or avoided if University officials and community members work together to support job training, and hire local residents at a living wage.
The official report notes, “The challenge for Richmond, the University of California, and Lawrence Berkeley Labs is to forge strategies that allow for the economic effects of the new campus to have a broad and inclusive impact.”
Most Richmond residents are black, Latino, or Asian-American. About 2/3 of the UC Berkeley undergraduate student body is white or Asian-American.
We’ve previously covered the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society’s support for Richmond’s plan to use eminent domain to protect homeowners from financial institutions.