Housing solutions through community collaboration

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Collaborating with community organizations can help two-year colleges support housing-insecure students.

Only about 28 percent of community colleges have on-campus housing, but these institutions serve a high percentage of housing-insecure students. Partnerships with community organizations can help close that housing gap.

In California, Foothill College has two new partnerships with local community service organizations to help its housing-insecure students. The college will collaborate with the Bill Wilson Center and Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County to find housing opportunities for students. Foothill also has entered the countywide 100-Day Challenge to house at least 100 students in 100 days.

“The high cost of living in the Bay Area is a real barrier to college students successfully completing their studies,” said April Henderson, Foothill College’s director of extended opportunities programs & services and foster youth and homeless student programs. “These partnerships are just one way for us to serve students facing housing insecurity and get them the services that they need.”

These recent partnerships also offer an opportunity for the community to participate in the house-sharing program. Santa Clara County residents who have an available room may apply to host a student in their home through Catholic Charities. The college will hold an information session for interested community members Wednesday, Feb. 19. Both organizations will be available to students during scheduled on-campus office visits.

A survey report prepared by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University revealed that, of the 789 Foothill College student responses, 49 percent experienced housing insecurity and 19 percent experienced homelessness in the past year.

The college held a Summit on Student Homelessness last spring to address these concerns and introduced its programming goals to campus stakeholders during a launch presentation on student homelessness in fall 2019.

Innovative assistance

In Washington State, Tacoma Community College’s (TCC’s) College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) has been helping students find affordable housing since 2014. TCC collaborates with the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) and other community organizations to provide homeless and near-homeless students to access housing vouchers and low-cost apartments. It’s subsidized by THA.

The model has changed over the years as rental prices have changed. Because of rising rent costs, students were having a hard time affording housing even with the vouchers. THA began buying apartment complexes near the college and making arrangements with nearby landlords to subsidize housing prioritized for TCC students experiencing housing challenges.

CWD Investments, the first developer to join the partnership, dedicated the recently renovated Highland Flats (formerly Tiki Apartments) to house both TCC students and former Tiki Apartment residents who had been displaced by the renovation. CWD then added another complex within walking distance of TCC.

In 2016, the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) joined the program, working with Koz Development and THA to dedicate 104 micro-units in a nearby apartment complex to homeless UWT students. Because most TCC transfer students transfer to UWT, the program allows TCC CHAP students to retain their housing assistance if they transfer to UWT to pursue a 4-year degree.

TCC markets CHAP to students, refers students and tracks tenancies and other operational details. The college also manages a fund to help students pay security and utility deposits, purchase furniture and cover other move-in expenses.

The Tacoma/Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium named TCC and its partners an Excellence in Affordable Housing Award winner in the “innovation” category for 2019. In 2018, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government named the CHAP program one of the 25 most innovative public initiatives of the year.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.