Chabot-Las Positas Community College District officials are considering whether to build housing for students, but it would be years before anyone could move in.
What started as concerns among the board of trustees about homeless students led to a feasibility study to gauge demand and start the conversation about cost, financing options and who would manage new facilities.
“This is quite a long process for us,” said Owen Letcher, the college district’s vice chancellor for facilities and bond program. “A lot of people say we need housing right now, but building anything, developing any campus construction, takes several years of planning, design and construction before it could be occupied.”
At the last board of trustees meeting, outside consultant Scion Advisory Services presented results from a student survey, proposed possible configurations – dormitory-style builds, individual apartments or family units – and cost to both renters and the district.
The board is considering this massive project, because it would advance one of the college’s strategic objectives: helping students progress faster through their course toward completing an associate degree or transfer to a four-year college. For example, officials cited students who say they could take more courses if they didn’t have to work at a second job to afford housing.
Also, local or on-campus housing would support the board’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sustainability by reducing or eliminating commute time for students, Letcher added.
Student housing isn’t unheard of in California, though it’s not common.
In California, 11 of the 116 community colleges offer housing for students, mostly in rural areas or districts that serve multiple counties, where commuting may be prohibitive, Letcher said.
There are several reasons community college students may be housing insecure, even though many students continue to live with their families near the school. In some cases, their families have relocated, Letcher said. Some students have families of their own. Some are homeless and some experience other variations on housing insecurity, such as couch surfing. Some students are also veterans looking to transition to civilian life and need housing.
The district serves about 29,000 students. According to a survey of students, interest in housing varied depending on whether a student was full-time or part-time, and whether what’s offered is dormitory-style shared rooms, single or shared apartments, or family housing. In all, about 910 respondents at Chabot expressed interest in housing, while about 610 at Las Positas said the same, Letcher said.
For 12-month leases around both Chabot and Las Positas, the study concluded that dormitory-style, shared rooms would cost $900 to $1,000 a month. Apartment units would cost $1,700 to $2,000 a month and family housing would cost $2,500 to $3,300 a month.
Those rates are less than those found in the open market because they would include furniture, utilities, wireless service and other costs that independent renters have to pay themselves, Letcher said.
“We have enough demand and can support below-market rates and attract a partner or housing developer,” Letcher said. “But we have a long way to go in this process.”
The study included a hypothetical timeline showing that units could be move-in ready in fall 2024.
At Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, it’s taken about 12 years since the initial study; , and they’re close to moving students in. Santa Rosa Junior College was able to move much faster after the wildfires in 2017. It will be a couple more years before units are ready to occupy, according to news reports. Napa Valley College is also a few years into its planning process.
Chabot-Las Positas district would likely finance construction with 30- or 40-year bonds, and then own the property at the end. The study assumed construction takes place on already-owned property, Letcher said. Otherwise, buying land would be an additional cost.
The board will continue discussing the proposal at their next meeting in October, and likely will need more financial answers from the staff, Letcher said.