Bakersfield College is moving toward getting its first affordable housing development for low-income or homeless students.
At Thursday's Kern Community College District board meeting, trustees approved entering into an agreement to sell or lease property located on 4021 Mt. Vernon Ave. to the Housing Authority of the County of Kern. The Housing Authority would build and operate an affordable housing facility for students across the street from college, while BC would refer students for potential housing.
This housing would be restricted to students that meet one of the following Housing and Urban Development criteria: students receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), students formerly in foster care, students with dependent children or married students.
Thursday's board approval allows the Housing Authority to pursue grant opportunities to finance the project while the college finalizes the full terms of a sales or lease agreement. Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Pelz said the organization will work with KCCD and BC to define the target population and further develop the concept for the site.
The project is still in its preliminary stage so several details are unknown. However, given the size of the land available, Pelz believes "the site can comfortably accommodate approximately 25 units along with a community room, offices, laundry room and onsite manager. These would not be dorms but apartments with full kitchens and private bathrooms."
There is no information available on when construction will begin or when the development could open.
BC Communications Director Norma Rojas-Mora explained the Housing Authority approached the college in August to see if it had ever considered utilizing that land for some type of housing development.
It seemed like a good fit for the college, especially since several of its students meet the criteria for populations the Housing Authority serves. Bakersfield College determined that in the 2018-2019 academic year, 2,054 students received TANF and 932 reported being homeless, according to Rojas-Mora. These numbers are based on student self-reported information from federal student aid or DREAM Act applications.
"This partnership would be to address affordable housing and create a partnership with the Housing Authority," she said.
Both Pelz and Rojas-Mora said they are not aware of any other developments of this type in California.
This is not the first time the college has tried to help students in need. Rojas-Mora explained the Renegade Pantry focuses on alleviating food insecurity, hunger and poverty among current students to help them stay focused on their academics and career pathways.
Two new resources will also be aimed at helping the student population.
BC is developing a six-week training program for homeless individuals to get them the skills needed for certain entry-level jobs, Rojas-Mora explained. The program will be launched in January.
She added the college is driving a research and data piece that will provide an assessment on the homeless population and develop a common platform to identify the frequency of reoccurring services to homeless individuals across service sectors and support them. It is part of a larger community health care initiative with Adventist Health.
"Bakersfield College is at the table on numerous conversations taking place in our community and looking to find solutions that will make a positive impact," she said.
President Sonya Christian was pleased to see the college could move forward with the Housing Authority on the housing project and is excited about the possibilities it could bring.
"It’s a new strategy that brings to the table partners that we’ve never had before to remove critical barriers that our students have: housing insecurity, food insecurity and so on," Christian said. "Our board understands the needs of these students, and we cannot take care of the needs on our own, so we’re continuing this concept that through collaboration and coalition building we can meet the needs of our students."