Q & A - STUDENT AND EMPLOYEE HOUSING
Following are answers to questions that were submitted in advance of the informational meeting on housing.
Q. How is shared governance represented in housing decision making?
A. District decisions regarding housing are extremely complex because of financial, regulatory, legal, and political considerations. Off-campus housing opportunities are reviewed by the Chancellor and the Vice Chancellor of Business Services. The initial tasks are administrative in nature in that they assess expertise and financial capacity of partners, community policies toward increased housing, terms and price of partnerships, total cost of ownership, capital stacking, and bond requirements. Details about the proposed cost and terms of payment for any housing project will be presented over time to the Board of Trustees in closed session pursuant to the Brown Act to inform any decision to launch a project. Their decision will be voted upon in a public session with multiple opportunities for comment over the course of the project.
Once the Board approves a project, districtwide input from students, faculty, staff, and administrators will be key in determining the criteria and process for offering available units to students and employees. The Chancellor’s Advisory Council will serve as the primary recommending body.
Q. Why are there so few questions in the surveys?
Q. Who decided the questions in the survey? Why were the questions you picked prioritized
over others that may have been better?
Q. What was the overall goal of the survey in the first place considering the questions
that you picked?
A. There have been two recent housing surveys conducted in the district.
A survey for faculty and staff was created by non-profit housing developers Mercy Housing and Abode Communities to gather information from employees in participating school districts for a specific school employee rental housing development at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto. Several local school districts are partners in the affordable housing project in addition to Foothill-De Anza.
The primary purpose of the employee survey was to gather information to ensure that the 231 Grant Ave. development will meet the needs of school employees in terms of household income and the number of bedrooms needed as well as to gauge employee interest. The district’s role was to administer the survey on behalf of Mercy & Abode. The survey was conducted in June 2020.
A student housing survey was conducted by the district in late February and early March 2021 after students complained they had not been surveyed. It was created by a consultant working in collaboration with the district to provide baseline information that will be supplemented when specific student housing projects are identified. The questions were reviewed by the college presidents, college marketing offices and the district research director.
The student survey parallels the employee survey in several respects, and includes questions about household size and income that would be of interest to future development partners. The survey focused on community-based affordable housing because the district has determined that working with community partners would be the quickest way to initially provide student housing.
Some questions were included in the survey based on input from student government leaders, including queries about whether students are living in an unsafe environment, at-risk of losing housing or homeless. The survey allowed students to indicate a preference for where they would want to live within the district’s boundaries. At the urging of students, an option was included so students could indicate a preference for on-campus housing.
It is a standard rule of thumb that surveys ideally shouldn’t take more than five minutes to complete. Long surveys run the risk of discouraging participation entirely or having people complete only part of the survey. Students at both campuses have been surveyed frequently on a number of topics, and keeping the housing survey to a manageable length was intended to ensure a broad and representative student response.
Q. What were the results of the recent district housing survey?
A. The survey results are posted HERE.
Q. Is The Oaks property/development being considered as a potential option, especially given its beneficial proximity to the De Anza campus? If so, what is the estimated cost, and would it also be affordable for students?
A. The Oaks shopping center is already being developed for another use. KT Urban is moving forward with a plan to redevelop The Oaks with a mixed-use residential complex that would include senior housing units and townhomes. The district had expressed interest in acquiring the property in recent years, but did not have money to support such a project prior to Measure G. KT Urban took over The Oaks several years before passage of Measure G.
Q. Are on-campus housing options being considered?
A. The campuses are currently developing facility master plans through the shared governance process. A first step toward the possibility of on-campus housing would be including that use in the campus facilities master plan. However, on-campus housing also would need the support of college and district administration and the Board of Trustees, who must determine whether on-campus housing is financially and operationally viable for our district.
Any on-campus housing project would take four to five years to plan and construct, and many associated services would be required to support it, such as dining, 24-hour maintenance and security, and custodial, which cannot be supported by bond funds. Any discussion of on-campus housing also would need to include long-term capital planning to ensure there is adequate funding to properly maintain building needs such as roofing, carpeting and other large-scale facility replacement requirements. These factors all would have to be considered in evaluating the economic and logistical feasibility of on-campus housing.
Q. Why are students not being heard on this issue?
A. Students are being heard and will continue to be heard, always. Students have been coming to board meetings for more than a year making their views known about the need for student housing, and student representatives have passed and shared resolutions reflecting their thoughts on this issue. In their board priorities, trustees identified attending to student needs such as housing as important to ensuring student equity and success. The chancellor and college presidents have met with students to discuss housing. Students were recently surveyed by the district about their interests and desires related to district-sponsored affordable housing, and more than 2,700 students took the survey. Students also are represented on college and districtwide shared governance committees at which housing issues are discussed. Once a student housing project is identified, students would be invited to provide input into the planning process.
Q. What efforts are being done now to support students who are in need of housing?
A. The colleges are constantly looking for ways to assist students with housing and other basic needs.
Both Foothill College and De Anza College work with community partners who provide emergency rental support, shared housing opportunities and assistance in finding stable housing. They also provide financial assistance to help students with emergency needs.
As of Jan. 12, Foothill College had distributed $1,150,500 in emergency financial aid grants to 1,839 students under the federal CARES Act. The assistance is for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care.
As of Jan. 5, 2021, De Anza College had distributed $3,184,830 in emergency financial aid grants to 4,623 students under the federal CARES Act. The assistance is for expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to the coronavirus such as food, housing, course materials, technology, health care and child care.
Q. Will we get a more concrete answer on what will be budgeted for this important issue?
In a Measure G Initial Master Bond Project List adopted by the Board of Trustees in January, the district indicated that it expects to invest $200 million in student and employee housing from Measure G. The exact amount will depend on specific housing projects.
Q. How does the district plan to maximize the number of units for students?
Q. What are student restrictions for affordable housing? How do students qualify for
Q. Will students who have parents whose jobs are low income or having income affected
by COVID-19 subject to affordable housing?
Q. How inclined are you to create affordable housing in comparison to low-income housing
as the median income varies vastly across households in the Bay Area?
Q. Would international students be able to also get affordable housing?
A. Answers to questions about who would be eligible for student housing will be part of a later districtwide discussion once a specific project has been identified. Income levels would clearly be a primary consideration in determining eligibility and would be part of the economics of any project. The Board of Trustees has indicated that Measure G housing projects should be financially sustainable. Bond funds can be used only for construction and construction-related activities, not for building operations or rental subsidies.
The need for affordable and low-income housing is far greater than what the district alone can supply. Fortunately, the governor, the state legislature and many government agencies are looking to support affordable and low-income housing.