The last tenants of 1921 Walnut Street agree to vacate affordable housing

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After extensive community efforts to save eight rent-controlled units at 1921 Walnut St., the last of the tenants agreed to move out, paving the way for its demolition and new student housing to be built by UC Berkeley.

The demolition of the rent-controlled building will allow the campus to add 75 beds to the plan for a new transfer student dormitory called “Anchor House”. Anchor House will provide housing for a total of 772 students once development is complete, according to UC Berkeley Capital Strategies spokesperson Kyle Gibson.

“Living away from campus hampers a student’s ability to thrive academically, socially, and culturally,” Gibson said in an email. “This challenge is particularly acute for transfer students, who are historically underserved by housing on campus.”

Gibson added that UC Berkeley ranks last of all UC campuses in terms of the percentage of student body beds, with 40% of undergraduates unable to live in the city of Berkeley.

More than 5,000 students who applied for on-campus accommodation this semester have been turned down due to lack of space, Gibson said in an email. This problem is even more urgent for low-income students and transfer students, he added.

However, ASUC Senator Kalliope Zervas alleged in an email that justifying the project as helping low-income students is a “front” because the exclusive student apartments will not help the community. low income but will instead displace those who already live there. She added that while the student housing crisis shouldn’t be ignored and that she herself has struggled to find affordable housing, she believes UC Berkeley should never displace low-income tenants from their accommodation.

“As of now, 1921 Walnut Street acts as an affordable, long-term housing option for low-income residents who would otherwise have nowhere to live,” Zervas said in an email.. “The demolition of 1921 Walnut Street only increases the tension that has existed for so long between the people of Berkeley and the university.”

Tenants at 1921 Walnut St. agreed to an agreement with the campus to vacate the building in exchange for compensatory relocation packages, according to Gibson. Although unable to provide financial details, Gibson said in an email that the value of these packages could reach six figures.

The benefits included in these packages are moving assistance, reimbursement of moving expenses and rental assistance for more than three years, according to Gibson. The packages also include an optional one-time payment equal to their total rental aid which tenants can use to purchase a home in the area of ​​their choice.

“While I’m happy to finally see the University develop much-needed student housing, I’m disappointed that the administration is moving so many residents and destroying more than a dozen rent-controlled units,” said Sophie Hahn, member of the municipal council. . “Beyond the impact on current tenants, once lost, these rent-controlled housing units can never be replaced.

According to Hahn, since Anchor House was designed in 2018, various proposals for preserving the affordable units have been devised, including the idea of ​​moving the physical building to another location in Berkeley.

Hahn said in an email that she felt frustrated that no “real consideration” would have been given to the idea, although it was requested in the recent settlement between the City of Berkeley and the campus.

City Council member Rigel Robinson said in an email he felt 1921 Walnut Street should never have been part of Anchor House’s plans and noted that there were options to develop student housing that could have been achieved without destroying existing affordable housing.

Expressing concerns about environmental injustice, ASUC Senator Varsha Madapoosi claimed that prioritizing student housing over the larger Berkeley community takes away resources such as access to energy and green spaces to marginalized groups.

“The housing issue in Berkeley is quite nuanced, but at the end of the day, students are temporary guests in this city,” Madapoosi said in an email. “By building on 1921 Walnut St. UC Berkeley, it will potentially increase the number of homeless people and worsen conditions for long-term tenants. “

Matt Brown is the primary school and community reporter. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @maattttbrun.


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