‘Living in Community:’ New Learning Certificate Promotes Healthy Housing

To foster mutual understanding and improve the local housing climate, a free community course facilitated by Humboldt State University is now open to the public for enrollment. The product of years of advocacy between HSU and community partners, the course is designed to build relationships between the University, community, landlords, and tenants.

HSU students, landlords, and members of the community are welcome to enroll at no cost.

The 10-module course is called “Living in Community” and was created by HSU’s Humboldt Tenant Landlord Collaboration (HTLC) program. Knowing the many challenges of the national housing crisis, HTLC works with students to help find equitable and affordable housing options as they transition to living off campus.

“We created the HTLC to pinpoint solutions, not problems, to our local housing crisis,” says Chant’e Catt, HSU’s Off-Campus Housing Coordinator. “Our hope is to relieve pressure on a complex issue that intersects with racial inequity, poverty, and other social challenges. These problems are so much bigger than coming up with rent money.”

Related: >> Humboldt Tenant Landlord Education Program Builds Community

Humboldt’s rural location adds a layer of challenge for students from out of the area. Many are unable to make the long trip to visit Arcata and secure housing before classes begin. “So we teach students how to do a virtual walk-through,” says Catt, who often tours rental properties in-person on behalf of students. She explains that simple measures, such as documenting damages on move-in and quickly responding to maintenance issues, can go a long way in preventing strife between tenants and landlords.

Catt’s role as a community housing advocate was the first of its kind in the 23-campus California State University system when she was hired by HSU in 2018. “Creating this critical position has advanced our goals of helping students find affordable and safe housing, though much work remains to be done,” says Stephen St. Onge, HSU’s Associate Vice President for Student Success
Catt has worked closely with Social Work Professor Jen Maguire, whose groundbreaking research found that more than 10% of California State University students had experienced homelessness and 19% of HSU students had experienced housing insecurity in the past year. Such impacts have worsened in the pandemic.

After years of research, Catt and her team worked with collaborators on and off campus to identify ways to support a healthy rental climate in Humboldt. The root of their approach is education, explains Catt. With topics like mold and pest prevention, renting with emotional support animals, implicit bias, and racial profiling, the “Living in Community” course teaches participants how rental properies should be fairly marketed and maintained.

“In the course, we develop a shared understanding of terms and definitions, watch videos of Humboldt community members’ experiences with rental housing, read about landlord and tenant perspectives, and build skills and knowledge through interactive exercises,” says Catt.

Upon finishing the approximately four-hour course (delivered online, in-person by appointment at community locations, or in a hybrid format), participants will receive the Good Neighbor Certificate of Completion, a Humboldt County Renters Handbook, and access to community housing resources. All course materials are accessible and available in a text and audio-friendly format. Using Google Translate, the course is available in dozens of languages. The program was also designed open-sourced so that colleges and universities across the nation can use the template to create a similar housing education program in their communities.

“Everyone in the community is welcome to take this course,” says Catt. “Our goal is to humanize housing in Humboldt,” says Catt.

To enroll in the course or learn more, visit this website.