Freeze Our Rent in the BSC!

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We, the undersigned members of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, demand that the Board of Directors freeze our rent until in-person learning at UC berkeley resumes or the BSC is at full capacity again.

The mission of the BSC is to “provide a quality, low-cost, cooperative housing community to university students, thereby providing an educational opportunity for students who might otherwise be able to afford a university education.” Failure to keep rent costs low and distribute resources back to members is a betrayal of our mission statement, especially during a pandemic. Housing is a human right, and no member should have to contemplate the likelihood of not having housing due to a rent increase.

As members, we feel that BSC management has not been responsive to our financial needs and challenges as members during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work for this organization -- whether as workshifters or house/apartment coordinators -- is often uncompensated and undercompensated. Rather than working to use resources according to the needs of us as members, according to co-operative principles, BSC management has allowed the corporate logic of profit over people to run the organization. Rent increases should never be used as collateral for loan increases. We know that these rent increases will not cycle back to us.

Increased rents would lead to displacement of members from our housing communities, cause food insecurity, and disrupt our education during a pandemic. The financial pressures of COVID, while felt by the BSC, are felt much more so by us tenant-members. We are majority low-income and do not have access to the same financial instruments and generational wealth as an 88-year-old organization with a $10million+ annual budget.

Raising rents will worsen the organization’s finances. Members will leave and potential members will find other housing outside the BSC instead. 

We, as members, collectively own this organization. However, our financial control has largely been eroded from a member-centered co-operative, and this crisis has shown the urgency of asserting collective power. We are not asking for a handout or a relief. Our rent payments and labor are the financial foundation of this organization, and we demand housing security. The last things members should have to think about in a pandemic is a rent increase.

We are doing our part to maintain low-cost housing. Is the BSC Board and senior management doing their parts to support us during this time?

We use this petition to exercise our collective ownership of the BSC. Our demands to Board and management are:

Immediate Demands

  • Freeze the rent!
  • Freeze senior management salaries and bonuses
  • Commit to a model of cooperative accountability that prioritizes members’ needs over those of financial business partners (e.g., Wells Fargo)
  • Provide fair compensation for members during COVID, including by giving access to their units’ budgets (e.g., habitability)
  • Remove the current Cooperative Experience Manager from his position[1]
  • Commit to a hiring freeze of senior management until we’re at full capacity

End-of-semester Demands

  • Critically assess the diversification of the BSC’s sources of income[2]
  • Exhaust sources of government aid, including but not limited to pandemic relief
  • Create an all-member subcommittee to re-envision the staffing structure of the organization[3]
  • Reevaluate membership criteria, especially in the context of deficit-causing vacancies during COVID[4]
  • Analyze alternative models for co-op structure

The interests of the organization and ourselves, as members, are intertwined. We want to maintain a low-cost housing community, and make it one that we control on our terms.

 

Sincerely,
The undersigned BSC members

Read footnotes in the full demand letter (PDF) here.