My favorite YouTube channel has nothing to do with higher education. The videos that I always watch are about infrastructure, construction and society. The channel is The B1M.
The B1M bills itself as the “definitive channel for construction.” And I guess it is, although maybe there are many construction YouTube channels. What I like about the B1M is that the channel is increasingly delving into the sociology, economics and political economy of construction.
What is fascinating about the video is that the Power Station conversion project provides a window to look into the much broader housing issue in London and worldwide. The video explores why developers are focusing on building a few luxury residences for the wealthy and seem to be ignoring the market for workforce and low-income housing development.
While watching the video, I wondered where higher ed might fit into the broader housing crisis story.
Is there such a thing as a higher ed housing researcher? Is research being done on the relationship between housing and higher education change?
Based on what I’ve observed, I’d venture three inter-related higher ed housing hypotheses:
Hypothesis 1: Universities are navigating a student housing crisis.
Every school I know seems to be dramatically short of residence hall space. As an industry, we seem to have an enormous deferred maintenance debt for our residence halls. New dorms are too slow to come online, forcing too many students into substandard community rentals.
Hypothesis 2: There is a hidden faculty/staff housing crisis.
One big issue that comes up whenever I speak with colleagues across our higher ed ecosystem is the crisis of faculty and staff housing. The theme that comes up repeatedly is that academic salaries have not kept pace with local housing markets. Recruiting candidates for positions is difficult when desired job applicants learn about the cost of housing near campus. An unrecognized portion of the academic workforce is severely housing-cost burdened. And housing costs are the most critical driver of the shift toward remote academic staff positions.
Hypothesis 3: The lack of affordable housing close to universities is impacting everything else about academic operations.
It is not only the people who work at our colleges and universities facing a housing crisis. Universities depend on a wide range of local services and businesses to run. What happens when faculty and staff can’t get childcare because the local housing is too expensive for childcare workers? How do university employees manage their parenting responsibilities when teachers can’t afford to live close by and after-school programs close down due to a lack of staff?
One draw to attending or working at a university is the community in which that school is situated. If working people can’t afford to live close by, the local business and restaurants that students, faculty and staff like to visit may not stay open.
Today’s university leaders must be engaged in issues that go well beyond the campus. Institutions will likely need to become players in conversations about housing that go well beyond the narrow scope of on- and off-campus residences.
Where are broad, critical and research-informed discussions occurring about the intersection of university operations and housing policy? Who are those researchers looking at housing markets with a higher ed lens?
Should Inside Higher Ed folks spend more time watching YouTube videos on construction and infrastructure?
What is your favorite non-higher-ed-related YouTube channel that informs how you think about the future of the university?