Proud to see campus diversity on the rise at Mills, junior Demetria Williams feels that there is one aspect of diversity that is quietly being overlooked: economic diversity. The denial of her request for housing as a section 8 tenant has put Williams at odds with housing administration.
Since last October, Williams, a full-time student and mother of a nine-year-old girl, has been trying to secure housing at the Alderwood family housing units.
When her search for on-campus housing started last October, Williams was at first told that it would not be a problem. But Williams remained skeptical. She knew of the stereotypes and difficulties in acquiring housing under section 8, a housing subsidy.
After careful research by administration her fears were justified. Housing authorities informed her they would not be able to provide her on campus occupancy.
“They said they wouldn’t be able to extend me the offer because they didn’t know what the legal obligations are. But the requirements are just your basic occupancy standards,” said Williams.
Nonetheless, without a precedent of accommodating subsidized housing, the Mills administration is reluctant to enroll in what would essentially be a three-way party arrangement with possible legal entanglements.
“We have not participated in section 8 housing in the past for several reasons,” said Vice President Elizabeth Burwell.
“One reason is the amount of time and resources necessary to administer the program for limited number of students. It is not a very efficient use of college staff and funds. Administration of such a program requires a certain amount of overhead that we are not staffed to manage at this time.”
Additionally Burwell said the college did not want to increase inspections of property, which would take away from budget and staff time.
According to the section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program Owner’s Guide, section 8 helps lower income elderly and disabled families secure housing from property owners in the private market.
The section 8 recipients receive federally funded rental subsidies administered by a local public housing authority. The voucher entitles the tenant to subsidized rent payments based on their income. Mills, as the owner, would receive a reduced portion of the rent from the section 8 tenant and the remainder from the government.
According to the Oakland Housing Authorities, the benefits of renting to a section 8 tenant include receiving market rents, reliable payments, rent increases that are exempt from rent control and free listings.
However, these benefits have no effect on Administrations decision. According to Roger Ono, Assistant Vice President of Financial Affairs, Mills has few facilities that would be considered independent units to be available for section 8 tenants. Furthermore subsidy housing is on a month-to-month basis, while Mills independent units are on a nine-month basis. The financial aspect of providing subsidy housing, however, remains the top reason for its denial.
“We are trying to conserve dollars,” said Ono. “One individual is not enough to a fulfill program. With increased units and request, the request will be revisited.”
According to Williams, Mills housing authorities would not face any outstanding requirements and would actually be paid above what they are asking for their units. For Williams, what remains unclear is what part of the tenant landlord relations that Mills wouldn’t be able to fulfill.
However, Williams sees the issue beyond the monetary and legal concerns of the school. For her it’s about Mills taking account all levels of diversity.
“It’s great to have diversity but how do you support it. Mills is a $30,000 a year school and if you want different diverse economic backgrounds, and social backgrounds then you have to be able to accommodate all of them and that is just not happening.”
Although Williams’s daughter has received a $5,000 scholarship to attend the children’s school housed on campus, Williams maintained that housing support would support them even further.
Despite the fact that Williams request has been denied, she has not given up.
” My goal is to see it happen as a possibility for other minority women to help bridge the hardships from community college to a university. I definitely want to push it until we can make it happen.”
Currently Williams is still looking for housing and said her current living situation is not conducive to being a student.