How the Bay Area Housing Crisis Is Impacting College Students


Photo by Joey Zanottia via Flickr. CC BY 2.0.

The Bay Area is known for its natural beauty and diverse population, but it’s also become infamous for the high cost of housing and its impacts on residents – particularly young people.

Since early 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, rent and home prices in the Bay Area have skyrocketed, causing some people to be evicted from their homes and forcing many more to leave the area. Now, after two years trying to make ends meet in the pandemic economy, students are especially feeling the impacts.

Stanley Cost, a junior at Cal State East Bay, said the housing crisis facing students is a primary obstacle in their education. “It can be a little stressful sometimes,” said Cost.

“Affordable housing would be great, but it’s [nonexistent] for a college student.”

His feelings echo many other Bay Area college students who, without a scholarship or other forms of financial aid, continue to struggle finding on- or off-campus housing they can afford. Some schools offer affordable housing, but many don’t.

As a result, lots of college students find it too expensive to live on campus, so they end up staying with their parents until they graduate and, if they’re lucky, find a high enough paying job that allows them to move out.

At the same time, the housing crisis has forced many students – at community colleges and four-year universities alike – to choose between paying for a roof over their head or attending school full-time. Some have dropped out of school altogether due to the financial burdens of the Bay Area rental market.

Some non-profit housing programs in the region are working to help students land affordable apartments. Shelter Inc., for example, is a Contra Costa County-based program that assists low-income and homeless people in their search for affordable housing.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also offers vouchers for residents that make 50 percent less than the average income, and public housing assistance for low-income residents.

But for students like Cost, despite some available aid opportunities, the economic worries just keep piling up.

“I think more students like myself should sign up for the housing programs here in the Bay Area,” he said.

Even so, neither “financial aid nor scholarships [are] enough for both tuition and housing.”