BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Affordable housing for students is coming to Bakersfield College. It was one of 26 California public schools to receive funds through the new state budget geared toward expanding affordable living for students. Overall, $1.4 billion in state funds were set aside with $60 million going towards the complex at BC.
A parking lot set in the corner of Bakersfield College will soon be a 154-bed apartment-style residence hall. At the moment BC does not offer housing for students, but as more struggle with housing stability in our community, this project hopes to give those students one less thing to worry about.
Kimberly Garcia is going into their third year at Bakersfield College, and shares that not too long ago they went with their friend to ask about affordable housing with no luck.
"My friend at the time was homeless, so it really sucked, and now hearing this, it's exciting and it's like hopefully, it works out you know and it's affordable for students because as many people know we don't have much money as students."
It's a gap the school hopes to bridge with the project.
"The focus should be the homeless population obviously to get them housed and then people would be putting in reservations for those facilities as well and they would be situated as needed," explained Marcos Rodriguez, executive director of facilities and operations for Bakersfield College.
Although college officials know the 154 beds in this apartment complex will not cover all the students in need, they hope it makes a difference for the eligible students.
"These will be open 12 months of the year so our students will have a place to go to every day and so I think that's a very positive thing and for the security and safety and the continuity of their studies as well," says Rodriguez.
The plans laid out are for the complex to be more than just a living area.
"Not only will this be a housing facility, but we will also have a food pantry operation there as well. There may be the possibility of a wellness center and being situated within that will be help for students with their medical needs as well. So there's going to be a myriad of programs," finished Rodriguez.
Homeless students are not that uncommon and it’s not an issue exclusive to Bakersfield College. The Hope Center released a study back in 2019 that showed 60 percent of California community college students had housing insecurity the previous year and about 19 percent were homeless. These are often emancipated former foster care students, veteran students, or first-generation college students.
Bakersfield College conducted a survey in 2020 that showed over 100 enrolled students were experiencing homelessness, which has an impact on student’s academic success.
"My friend previously she's always had really good grades and when she, you know, for some reason or another found herself homeless her grades went down you know and she kind of had like mental breakdowns. She was just like 'I don't know if I can do this because I don't know where I'm gonna sleep tomorrow' or 'I don't know what I'm gonna do' you know. So it really sucks seeing her like that knowing that iImean school is all she had," added Garcia.
Garcia added this is exciting news for the future generations at BC and just hopes undocumented students are also eligible as they know many who because of their status face even more barriers to obtaining a higher education.
The project is still in the very early stages, with construction expected to start next summer and be completed in about 18 months, making 2025 a tentative opening year. BC doesn't have an estimate yet of how much each unit will cost.
They do have a survey online to get student input on their needs regarding this affordable housing project.