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State money will fund affordable housing for community college students

Affordable housing is also a challenge for community colleges… which haven’t provided student housing in the past. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez tells us some local schools are getting state funding to build housing for their struggling students.

Community colleges have not provided housing in the past, but now some local schools are getting new state funding to build affordable housing for their struggling students.

San Diego City College has been awarded $344,000 by the California Department of Finance to support planning for a 16-story high-rise residential building adjacent to the downtown campus. The college plans to demolish its former Child Development Center on the corner of 16th and B Streets to make way for the building.

“We actually did have to complete a market analysis for rents to ensure that the rent would be below the market value and priority given to low-income students,” said John Parker, vice president of administrative services at City College.


Current designs for the residential tower include 210 apartments with room for more than 600 residents. Each unit will only be leased to registered students at City College.

The urban campus is one of 75 California community colleges to be awarded money through the Higher Education Student Housing Grant Program created by Senate Bill 169. The bill provides $500 million for the fiscal year 2021-2022.

A rendering of the proposed 16 story residential high-rise adjacent to San Diego City College, San Diego, CA, March 10, 2022
RNT Architects
The proposed 16-story residential high-rise adjacent to San Diego City College is shown in this undated rendering.

Southwestern College in the South Bay will begin a feasibility study for affordable housing for students on each of its four campuses located in Chula Vista, National City, Otay Mesa and San Ysidro. The college was awarded almost $1 million in state planning grants.

“We know that housing is the largest single expense for our students,” said Kelly Hall, Southwestern’s vice president for business and financial affairs. “We want to build new student support hubs that provide not just housing, but services, cafes and child care facilities.”

Community college students are struggling so much that many of them are living with housing insecurity. San Diego City College officials surveyed students during the coronavirus pandemic.


This semester, Maria May is studying at the new City College Child Development Center. Since November, she has been living in a hotel with her husband and two children. The family immigrated from Mexico and continues to struggle to find an affordable place to live.

“We try to apply for different houses and different apartments but they have a waiting list,” she said, “so they never choose us and we pay for the applications and nothing happens.”

The City College residential building could take more than a year of planning and design before an application is made for more grant money from the state to begin construction.