This letter reflects the opinions of Students for Quality Education (SQE) and the Queer Student Union (QSU). Letters to the editor do not reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Students for Quality Education and the Queer Student Union fight for a free, accessible and equitable education for all California students, as well as full economic, political and cultural justice for queer and trans people. Through our extensive experience as students and as organizers, we know that the skyrocketing cost of living has become a primary barrier to higher education — especially in San Luis Obispo, where a majority of students come from faraway places.
While many in San Luis Obispo wish that Cal Poly house all of its students on campus, the reality is that students, faculty and staff are a vital backbone in this community and deserve affordable housing in the community which they are a part of. On top of that, on-campus housing rent, on average, tends to be hundreds of dollars more expensive than living off campus. Given that tuition and fees have risen more than 283 percent since 2002, it is no wonder why students choose to live off campus. Despite off-campus housing being cheaper than on-campus housing, rent is increasingly becoming unaffordable. In fact, most of the new “student apartments” are built as luxury units and are catered to Cal Poly’s wealthiest students (we know, we have a class problem on campus: https://mustangnews.net/unveiling-cal-polys-classism-problem/). On top of current students and community members struggling to afford rent every month, the SLO County Board of Supervisors recently elected to make matters worse.
On Dec. 13, the SLO County Board of Supervisors rejected a proposed plan that would have incentivized more affordable housing through a tiered fee structure attached to housing development. The plan, originally proposed before the Great Recession, was tabled until recently due to budget shortfalls and the bad economy. Now that our city has largely recovered, it is becoming increasingly apparent how SLO’s elected officials are navigating our housing crisis.
The rejection of this plan exposed the Board’s commitment to trickle-down economics, a tried and failed philosophy amounting to the belief that if we give tax cuts and benefits to housing developers across the board, they will be more inclined to build affordable housing units. Obviously, given the chance, any housing developer (especially those with a fiduciary responsibility to investors) will elect to build more expensive or luxury units, as their return on investment will be higher. We have seen this happen across the country in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York City. That is why we need common-sense city ordinances in San Luis Obispo promoting the construction and maintenance of affordable housing units. That is what this plan would have done and our elected representatives chose to do the opposite.
In 2017, voters, activists and common-sense politicians demonstrated that progressive policies can win and they can work. We need a Board of Supervisors that is willing to rise up to crony real-estate developers and fight for common sense policies that work for everyday working people, students, the sick and the elderly. We have accomplished so much as a city this year, from our welcoming city ordinance to the abolition of Columbus Day and the affirmation of Indigenous People’s Day, to resisting Trump in the streets. Now we need to turn our attention to the housing crisis and make the connections between all the important social movements that have defined our recent political moment. This means that the fight for affordable housing is also the fight for black lives, for queer and trans people, for the disabled, for poor and working people, for women and for immigrants.
Let’s unite together, and fight for the future we deserve.
Students for Quality Education
Queer Student Union