Homelessness Harms Students. Rent Control Will Protect Them.
A recent article by LA School Report shows the devastating impacts of homelessness on students in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Students across the United States are undoubtedly facing the same issues. To prevent homelessness among students, politicians must urgently pass effective rent control policies.
Last month, LA School Report revealed that “nearly 70 percent of homeless LAUSD students, and nearly 60 percent of students in foster care, were chronically absent during the last school year, according to school system data.” Just as bad, there are more than 51,000 homeless students in L.A. public schools, LA School Report noted.
These disturbing statistics come at a time when families in the L.A. area continue to be slammed by wildly inflated rents, forcing them into the streets. In 2020, for example, USC researchers found that three out of four Los Angeles households were rent burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent. The result is more homelessness: Zillow, the real estate website, found that in cities where people spend more than 32 percent of their take-home pay on rent, a spike in homelessness will follow.
Los Angeles students have been paying the consequences. In addition to missing school, LA School Report found that unhoused students struggle “with everything from lack of access to nutritional foods to mental healthcare” as well as inconsistent Internet access to do online schooling, among many other issues. All of this impacts their futures: if they don’t receive a proper education, their prospects of landing a well-paying job will suffer.
Unhoused students is not only an L.A. problem. According to federal data, the U.S. hit a record-high of 1.5 million students who were homeless during the 2017–2018 school year. At the same time, rents across the nation skyrocketed, with tenants paying landlords a staggering $4.5 trillion in rent between 2010 and 2019.
Rent control, though, can provide relief for students and their families. Top experts at USC, UC Berkeley, and UCLA found that rent control is a key tool to stabilize California’s housing affordability crisis.
University of Southern California Professor Manuel Pastor, co-author of the USC Dornsife’s Rent Matters report, wrote: “The housing crisis requires a range of strategies, [and] moderate rent regulation is a useful tool to be nested in broader strategy. It has fewer damaging effects than are often imagined, it can address economic pain, and it can promote housing stability. And housing stability matters because it is associated with physical, social, and psychological well-being; higher educational achievement by the young; and benefits for people of color.”
It’s a finding that applies to students and their families across the country.
Unsurprisingly, housing justice activists and middle- and working-class residents have been pushing for rent control in such cities as St. Paul, Minnesota; Pasadena, California; Pomona, California; North Las Vegas; and the list goes on.
“I shouldn’t have to wake up everyday thinking, do I pay for my son’s extra pair of jeans or do I pay the rent?’” said PJ Johnson, a mother, at a recent press conference in Pasadena, where activists have successfully placed a rent control initiative on the November ballot.
To address the housing affordability and homelessness crises, Housing Is A Human Right advocates for the “3 Ps”: protect tenants through rent control and other protections; preserve existing affordable housing; and produce new affordable housing. This three-prong strategy can prevent more homelessness among students and their families. Politicians must immediately carry it out — young people’s futures hang in the balance.
Patrick Range McDonald, the author of this article, is the award-winning advocacy journalist for Housing Is A Human Right.