Making Housing Affordable

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This summer, eight Occidental College students are working to help low-income families in Los Angeles find and keep affordable housing and community groups improve low-income neighborhoods through the College's community development and affordable housing internship program.

The eight were selected from pool of students who applied for the full-time, 10-week program. Internship program director Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics and chair of the urban & environmental policy department, said the students get hands-on experience in public policy advocacy, counseling, organizing, and housing development; an insider’s view on how non-profit community organizations work; and the opportunity to explore a possible career.

During their internships, which began May 27 and runs through August 1, students research public policy and implement projects in urban planning, real estate development, job creation, social services, community organizing, and other areas. The program also has an academic component: Student interns must complete assigned readings, keep journals of their experience, write a final paper, and attend weekly on-campus seminars conducted by Dreier.

"The program is a win-win-win situation--for the students, for the community groups and constituencies they are working for, and for the College," he said. "It’s a ‘win’ for me, too. I enjoy mentoring the students, watching the transformations they go through, following them through their careers at Oxy and afterwards, and knowing that for many of them, the summer internship was a life-changing experience."

The interns each receive a $3,900 stipend and get subsidized room and board at the College for the duration of their internships. The program is supported by grants from the Union Bank Foundation and the Friedman/Meyer Fund, and the college’s Anderson Fund, Career Development Center and Undergraduate Research Center. 

The student interns are:

  • Adrian Adams ’17, a critical theory & social justice major from Las Vegas, Nevada. He is interning for Southern California Association for Non-profit Housing. SCANPH serves as the policy and advocacy group for the region’s affordable housing developers.
  • John Guzman Aguilar ’15, a politics and Spanish double major from Upland. He is an intern with the East Los Angeles Community Corporation. ELACC builds affordable housing, provides access to economic development opportunities to low-and moderate-income families in Boyle Heights and East L.A., and organizes residents to address planning and development issues in their community.
  •  Carina Bustos ’15, a critical theory & social justice major from East Palo Alto. She is working for Strategic Actions for a Just Economy. SAJE works with residents of South LA to expand housing, jobs, open space and other community benefits.
  • Jesus Flores ’16, an urban & environmental policy major from San Bernardino. He is working for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, a multi-issue group that helps struggling California homeowners to keep their homes and works on legislation to protect homeowners and tenants from unfair evictions.
  • Audrey Hahn ’16, an urban & environmental policy major from Northridge. She is  an intern with LINC Housing Corporation. LINC is a nonprofit that develops and builds affordable housing for senior citizens, families and special-needs populations.
  • Karen Romero ’16, a critical theory & social justice major from Anaheim. Her internship is with the Esperanza Community Housing Corporation, a community group that builds and maintains affordable housing in the South Los Angeles area and helps the community address issues of jobs, public health and environmental justice.
  • Angela Soley ’15, a diplomacy and world affairs major from West Saint Paul, Minn. She is an intern with the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, a research, policy, and advocacy group that has played a key role in passing Los Angeles’ living wage law, cleaning up the Port of Los Angeles and making sure that major development projects provide benefits for low-income workers and communities.
  • Rachel Stober ’15, a politics major from Palo Alto. Her internship is with LA Voice, a faith-based community organizing group that works with congregations from a variety of faiths to address issues such as education, housing, immigration reform and police-community relations.

Including this year’s group, 56 students have participated in the summer program since it began in 2004. They include 42 women and 14 men. Almost two-thirds have been students of color.