Housing discriminination affects students of color

Columnist Edgar Sanchez

Columnist Edgar Sanchez

It’s that time of the year again. On-campus residents are hunting for off-campus housing, and while doing so may not be as complicated for some students, it sure was for me and for a lot of friends.

Merely a year ago, after living on-campus for two years, my friends and I sought to rent a house off-campus in Rohnert Park. We embarked on the long and complicated journey of searching and applying for tenancy.

We soon, however, realized that renting a house would be an uphill battle, as like many other processes in this country, this was not set up for us.

Our group consisted of five 20-year-old latinos, children of immigrants or immigrant ourselves. All of our parents, except for one, did not have credit history, an immediate turn-off for landlords. After getting our applications rejected a couple of times, it appeared as were doomed to split into two groups and rent apartments, which are known for having an easier application process.

Yet we did not give up. Oddly enough, weeks before the last day of school, we ran into a Craigslist post by a homeowner who took our application and a week later accepted us to rent his five bedroom home in L section.

My friends and I were ecstatic for the opportunity, yet our tenancy has not been what we expected. Crumbling conditions with an apathetic landlord have caused us to detest the place we call home.

But it provides a roof, and we plan to stay until we graduate in order to avoid undergoing the stressful process of finding a new house.

A bitter living environment is yet another burden we must add to our already heavy load as first generation to college students.

But our situation is not isolated. According to a study conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Blacks, Latinos and Asians looking for homes were shown fewer housing options than whites who were equally qualified.”

In a press release, the housing department explained this was due to “blatant discrimination.” Could this explain why my friends of color tend to live in small apartments, while their white counterparts tend to live in big houses with front and backyards?

Maybe. Or maybe not. But housing division between whites and people of color is a problem in this country that we must begin talking about.

Unequal housing and the divisions it creates is a problem for on-campus residents as well. First time freshman have the choice of choosing from an array of different housing options, usually making their decisions depending on how much money they are willing to pay.

Students of higher socioeconomic status usually choose fully equipped villages like Sauvignon, while their counterparts end up in the cheapest options like Verdot often referred to as “Verghetto.”

Although the name “Verghetto” may have initiated as a joke, we have to call it for what it truly represents: A division between rich and poor, and consequently white and non-whites.
As the new administration at Sonoma State pledges to diversify the student body, helping students feel comfortable and included in the places they live may be a good place to start.