by Ollie Hancock
In August of every year, a new batch of students fills the dorms, apartments, and homes in Arcata neighborhoods. Overbearing parents pilot SUVs in a line around the block on check-in day. Students scramble through Craigslist listings in search of a last-minute opportunity. It’s no secret there is a housing shortage in Arcata, but the new polytechnic designation will increase demand. Cal Poly Humboldt expects to double in enrollment in the next six years. There are plans to build infrastructure, but they won’t be available until 2025 at the earliest. During this in-between period, the school will provide “bridge” housing. Steven Onge, a representative of Housing and Residence Life, explained the plan to master-lease nearby hotels to house students in the meantime.
“We’ve been working with it for over a year [and] we’ve developed relationships with several hotel owners and property managers,” Onge said. “This property was nice. There’s a pool there, and laundry is included, so we think the location was good, and the amenities are good.”
This academic year, the Comfort Inn will house almost 98 students with amenities like maid service and free continental breakfast. Residence Life is doing their best to make it a genuine college dorm experience with group dinners. Students can take the bus to campus in about 10 min.
“We’ve got some vending machines which will have fresh food in them, and we’ll do weekly community dinners and events to support students,” Onge said. “I’m hoping to get a food truck that we can use.”
Students still aren’t convinced. Kirby Marks, a nonbinary student, was made to choose between staying in male or female dorms when the gender-neutral dorms were unavailable in their building.
“I had to call them, and I was like, ‘I have no choices. There is no housing for me to choose from. I will not be able to live on campus. What’s going to happen?” Marks said. “So I had to change my gender marker to male so that I could actually get into housing.”
Opportunities for housing off campus are few and far between. Senior Humboldt student Zack Gamble says the high demand for housing allowed landlords to take advantage of students.
“It’s too easy to be a bad landlord out here,” Gamble said. “You don’t have the opportunity to turn down a place because you might not get another one for a few months.You have to take what you can get no matter how run-down decrepit it is.”
Since moving to Humboldt, Gamble has experienced his fair share of shakey Humboldt housing, from dry rot-ridden houses that shift with every earthquake to out-of-code heaters that require DIY maintenance. Gamble thinks the school should look critically at how the polytechnic designation will impact housing.
“You can’t increase your student base every year but have nowhere to put them,” Gamble said.