College of the Redwoods


Cal Poly Humboldt

College Matters | CR works to expand housing options

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, October 5, 2023 - 12:30pm

A majority of community colleges do not have dorms available to their students. A 2016 report from the American Association of Community Colleges noted that 28% of community colleges offer some sort of student housing. College of the Redwoods is one of the 28% who had the forethought several decades ago to offer housing to our students.

Our current student housing was built for the 1960s and 1970s generation of students. Although they have held up physically, the internal systems, finishes and furnishing have reached the end of their life cycle are now in need of complete replacement or extensive repairs and remodeling. Additionally, like many of our original buildings, they were built on fault lines and need to be relocated.

What we’ve learned over time is that a proper living arrangement can make a serious impact on whether or not someone decides to stay in school. To continue supporting our students, we must replace our outdated dorms with affordable, modern, and inviting living/learning environments that will attract new students and ensure they meet the needs of our students for generations to come.

In recognition of this need, College of the Redwoods has allocated $1.7 million toward the design of new dorms. Our design plan will modernize and expand our inventory of affordable student housing and increase capacity from 160 to 215 beds, 181 of which will be reserved for low-income students. The new buildings will also address seismic concerns, and will include in-unit bathrooms, an amenity space, residential kitchen area, and a district-operated dining facility with a commercial kitchen, serving, and seating area. To fund the project, we sought support from Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblymember Jim Wood to advocate for additional funding for this our affordable housing proposal.

The urgency for our housing project is hard to overstate. There is a well-documented lack of affordable housing in Eureka and Humboldt County. A 2018 housing assessment from the California Department of Housing and Community Development found that Eureka only met 13.9% of its housing needs. Because of this, we know some of our students are homeless, couch surfing, or sleeping in their cars. We also know that housing uncertainty often leads students into crises and, without intervention, can force them to put their educational journeys on hold.

Our guiding question has been: How can we ask our students to focus on studying when they’re worried about where they’ll sleep on any given night?

I was fortunate to join Sen. Mike McGuire, Assemblymember Jim Wood, CR Board of Trustees President Sally Biggin, and CR student Gabriel Brooks at a press conference on Sept. 20 to announce the state’s intention to award College of the Redwoods $28 million toward this important project. The press conference was a great day — a culmination of years of outstanding work by CR’s Vice President of Administration Julie Morrison and her staff, who led the planning.

The press conference was indicative of the continued support our region receives from McGuire and Wood. I want to thank them for continuously advocating for our students.

However, it is important to note that the $28 million in state funding serves only as the initial down payment on the project. To successfully realize our goals, we will need to identify additional funding sources.

The College of the Redwoods Board of Trustees recognizes the critical role our residence halls play in the student experience and in making students feel safe and secure, at home at CR. To this end, we have been exploring various options to complete the project, including a private/public partnership and/or placing a new bond measure on the November 2024 ballot.

Keith Flamer is the president of the College of the Redwoods.