The Santa Barbara Housing Cooperation, a collection of six houses in the Isla Vista and Santa Barbara communities, strives to “provide low rent co-op housing for student, staff, and faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara, regardless of gender, race, social, political, or religious affiliation,” according to their mission statement.
Recently, the Newman House decided via house vote to implement a new policy that the Isla Vista community has never seen. Starting in the 2018-2019 academic year, the Newman House will provide priority housing to queer and trans students.
This is a large step for the LGBTQ+ community within Isla Vista. Private spaces are essential for these students; they serve as a place to protect their physical safety and their mental health and well-being. Most importantly, the Newman House’s move helps to address the housing issues that disproportionately impact queer and trans students.
People are quick to assume that individuals who request these spaces want to segregate themselves from people who hold different opinions from their own. However, the goal of the Newman House is not to create a liberal bubble to protect its residents from harsh criticisms. Instead, they are trying to provide these students with the basic needs that every student requires to thrive in a university setting.
“The decision to create housing space specifically for Queer and Trans folks is simply because Queer and Trans folks are deeply impacted by housing insecurity … ” said Naia Al-Anbar, a fourth year anthropology major and board president of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative.
“Queer and Trans folks deserve safe and affordable housing, too,” Al-Anbar said.
Queer and trans people are disproportionately affected by housing insecurity. Twenty to 40 percent of the 1.6 to 2.8 million young people that are homeless in the U.S. identify as queer and trans, according to the Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress is a self-described “liberal” institution. However, young people from those communities account for only five to 10 percent of the general population.
Queer and trans people are significantly impacted by housing insecurity because they often have nowhere to go. Many families eject queer and trans children from their houses upon learning their identities. Furthermore, in many states, queer and trans individuals’ housing rights are not protected, so LGBTQ-identifying individuals can find it difficult to find affordable housing that will accept them. The Newman House has decided to do its part in addressing this issue.
The Newman House’s move to prioritize queer- and trans-identifying students is long overdue in Isla Vista. UCSB already provides priority housing for Queer and Trans students on campus with spaces like the Rainbow House in Manzanita Village. Once students leave the residence halls, they will no longer have these spaces in Isla Vista.
The Rainbow House is “a space to develop, foster, and explore identity as well as get connected to LGBTQ+ resources inside and outside of the Rainbow House,” according to UCSB Housing, Dining, and Auxiliary Enterprises. Students should not have to worry about the safety of their living situations once they enter their third and fourth years. This is why what the Newman House is doing is important.
Mariela Fraustro Ortiz, a second year political science major and current Rainbow House resident, said she is “already pretty uncomfortable in [Isla Vista] in general, so there’s honestly no way to go but up with inclusion of spaces like this.” LGBTQ+ residents of the Rainbow House and the other residence halls on campus should feel as safe as students who don’t identify with that community while living in Isla Vista.
Spaces like the Newman House are necessary for LGBTQ+ students within the Isla Vista community to have a safe, affordable living situation during their entire time here at UCSB.