In the coming academic year of 21/22, members of the WSP chapter of the Bay Area Student Activists (BAStA-WSP) would like to actively participate and advocate for affordable housing for all. By Dylan Lee.
The Bay Area housing crisis is continuing to get worse around us and it impacts not only the marginalized communities but even the most privileged among us. It affects the time in a day people spend commuting and where we can afford to live, both now and in the future. It affects whether many of us will be able to return to the Bay Area after college. It affects what our local communities look like and what neighbors and businesses we interact with on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, it affects whether our teachers can continue being our teachers and what they may have to sacrifice to do so. For some of us, despite passing by homeless encampments daily on our way to school, it’s been too easy for us to avoid really seeing it. Despite hearing our teachers say they had to rush to make their commutes home or the cost of living in the area is too high for affordable housing, we weren’t really listening. And despite living in the midst of an affordable housing shortage throughout the Bay Area, we rarely talk about the situation unfolding right in front of our eyes.
Last spring Bay Area officials in six counties announced shelter-in-place directives, mandating that residents only leave their homes for essential purposes. But what does sheltering in place look like in the Bay Area, one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the U.S.? The shelter-in-place order highlighted the fact that over 34,000 people in the Bay Area don’t have a stable place to shelter in.
To understand the myriad ways that the housing crisis impacts us and our communities, we need to hear the perspectives of a variety of people across the Bay Area, starting with our teachers, administrators and classmates and working our way outwards to realtors, property developers, researchers, city officials, mortgage loan agents, nonprofit organizations, lobbying groups, activists, volunteers, people experiencing homelessness and more.
Very quickly we will learn from these scores of conversations that the situation is complicated, to say the least, and deeply personal.
Just as the crisis affects many different people in many different ways, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Any progress will require the dedicated effort of diverse organizations and individuals across public and private sectors. But these conversations will also remind us that we can be a part of that effort, even as high school students.
We can donate our time by volunteering with local organizations; write to our elected representatives to support affordable housing initiatives and public works programs; vote in local, state and national elections for candidates that support our morals; raise awareness through writing, advocacy and art; or simply become better informed about the issues impacting those around us. Our advocacy to increase access to stable, affordable housing is needed now more than ever. The significant impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout are still unfolding and the number of families struggling to make ends meet continues to grow.
The East Bay/Silicon Valley Habitat for Humanity might be an avenue for us to explore and educate ourselves on how we can participate in changing systems and policies in the Bay Area. We ought to be working alongside people in our local communities and across the bay who care passionately about creating affordable homes and stronger communities.
Looking ahead in academic year 21/22, BAStA chapter at WSP would like to explore and create opportunities to shape the conversation on fair and affordable housing for everyone in the area. Through awareness, we can hope to share the experiences that have made the housing crisis so real and pressing to all of us, and to give a microphone to underrepresented voices. We hope by creating a platform that provides a step in what will be a long, comprehensive effort to call attention to the housing crisis and spark the dialogue that will affect real change at WSP and schools across the region. We look forward to seeing more members of our high school join BAStA-WSP in the new academic year to help those in need to have a place to call home.