UC Librarians struggling to find housing

On Oct. 19th the following testimonials were delivered in the bargaining session at Berkeley.  They are just a sample of how UC Librarians are struggling to maintain decent housing in the California housing market.  We have asked UC administration for a simple thing – the right of eligibility for housing programs available to faculty on each campus.  This is typically a stable pool of money; therefore, allowing librarians to apply for housing and mortgage programs would not even cost the UCs any more money. UC conducts nationwide searches for qualified librarians and needs this ability to attract national candidates – without it, many are choosing not to accept the job.  And as these stories demonstrate, some will be forced to move on from the UCs to find a job that allows them they basic housing they need for themselves and their families.

I am a new subject librarian in the UC system. For ten years, I sacrificed my personal life to pursue degrees from the top programs in my fields. I have national awards, high impact publications and skills that allow me to complete novel projects that all contribute to the vision I have for the library. Upon accepting the position at UC, I searched for months to find appropriate housing and ended up in a very small one-bedroom apartment with a roommate; we trade sleeping on an air mattress in the living room. Unfortunately, I could not have accepted my librarian position at UC if my roommate did not agree to move across country with me.

Usually when I find myself in uncomfortable situations I have hope that the future will improve. In this case what hope is there? Will housing costs drop drastically this year? Will salaries be increased to support the cost of living in California? If the answer is no the problem with retention (mine and my colleagues) will keep growing. Does UC even want subject librarians? Based on the current conditions it seems that administration has no interest in keeping career employees. I give my best to UC every day, can UC say the same about what it gives in return?

I’ll leave you with a story: I work very closely with faculty in my departments. Recently I have been supporting them by helping them set up their lab infrastructure to include proper data management planning. During one meeting, a faculty colleague explained how the housing situation was for them. In a calm and happy way they said, “Oh, we get two years of housing, so it’s great.” I walked out of that encounter with a sense that I am not valued as a member of the UC community.

 

In 2015 I moved to southern California from Florida for a position at UC.  The UC was very generous with the move itself (that is, paying the movers).  However, they were not generous in paying for my family’s drive cross-country and, despite promises to do as much as possible, no one at the university did anything of substance to help my husband find a job.  We met with a local representative for the Partner Opportunities Program.  She suggested that he sign up with a local hospitality temp agency which literally had jobs such as scooping ice cream at the County Fair.  This, for a 44-year-old professional who has managed country clubs and worked as a wine distributor.  My husband and I were both offended and disappointed by the lack of support or understanding of his qualifications.  The first two years we lived here were very hard as my husband did not have work and we ended up short-selling two rental properties and foreclosing on our house in Florida.  We also had to rely on retirement savings to fill in needed income on top of my salary.

Our housing costs us 42% of my income, and our housing plus utilities and car loan costs us 91% of my income.  When my husband was not working, this left us without enough money for basic costs like clothing, food and gas.  We also have a child so we need to live in a decent school district and provide money for extracurricular activities.

Needless to say, the move to CA was not financially advantageous for us (in fact, it was financially harmful).  It was a great career opportunity for me but we are literally paying for it dearly.

 

I began my career at the University of California a little over a year ago.  My family and I moved here from the middle of the country. I’m a librarian and my partner is a nurse. Our move to California would have been impossible if not for my partner’s portable skills and high earnings potential as an experienced and highly skilled MSN and BSN-holding registered nurse.

We are currently renting a modest two-bedroom townhouse approximately 33 miles from campus. Our monthly rent is $2,650, which accounts for more than 80% of my take-home income. Before my mother recently moved in with us to care for my almost-two year old son (three adults, one kid, and three dogs in a 1,000 square feet townhouse), we were paying $2,000 per month for daycare.  My take home pay falls well short of covering both of these expenses and that is without consideration for utilities, car loans, fuel, public transportation, groceries,  etc., etc.  And if we lived any closer to campus – in areas with higher crime rates and poor public schools notwithstanding – we would be paying even more in monthly rent.

Since my mom has moved-in, we have managed to save the $2,000 per month cost of daycare. However, the extra person has meant that we – my family – are in need of more space. As such, my partner and I are buying a house approximately 45 miles from camps.  Given the current housing market, my partner and I made the decision to buy further out from the university in order to gain more living space, inside and outside.  Simply put, it would have been impossible to find a similarly sized house and lot size without paying $200,000 – $400,000 more, at the very minimum.  Even though the arrival of my mother necessitated the need for more space, the purchase of a house was not a possibility until she arrived – and that’s with my partner’s comparatively generous salary

Suffice it to say that my salary as a librarian at the University of California does not come close to covering my family’s reasonable monthly expenses.  It’s as though a pre-requisite of my sustainable employment as a librarian at UC is having a partner with higher earning potential and a parent who is willing to relocate to provide stay-at-home child care. As much as I love my job at UC  – supporting the teaching and research of the wonderful faculty and students – my long-term commitment here would be impossible without the considerable financial support and relief I receive from my spouse and my mother. As a professional, knowing this is disheartening and degrading.

 

I’ve worked for UC for 15 years. I’ve just learned that my landlord is pursuing an owner-move-in eviction, so I am going to be displaced from my rent-stabilized home of the past 8 years. This means that I will be starting over at current market-rate rent. I’m finding that even the most basic studio apartment will require about 50% of my take-home pay. Despite bringing more experience and value to my position at UC every year, my standard of living is actually decreasing, and, costing more for less. Our salaries at UC are not even keeping pace with the national CPI, much less the cost-of-living increases near campus, which are much higher than the national CPI.

 

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