Student Activism Speaker Series Explores Housing and Policy

In light of a growing crisis of housing and homelessness in the LA area and beyond, the Student Activism Speaker Series (SASS) Committee chose to focus on the issue in a series of talks from a variety of perspectives. Kicking off the series and the term, journalist Liam Dillon provided an overview of the California housing crisis. Charged with covering housing affordability and neighborhood change across California for the LA Times, Dillon was uniquely qualified to provide an in-depth view of the crisis and various causes of the state’s housing problems. Fifty-two people joined the lunch discussion, with a number staying after for questions to hear his expert analysis. The series continued a little closer to home with the Socialists of Caltech, who have been exploring and engaging in the cause in the Pasadena area, and focused on Pasadena housing, tenant justice, rent control, and just cause for eviction. The lunch talk drew 49 people to hear about how other students at Caltech are taking steps to make a difference in the community. Closing out the series for the term, SASS invited Sean McKenna, a Caltech alumnus, to speak about his year spent researching the California housing crisis. Since graduating, Sean has been working as a researcher at RAND, tackling societal issues in urban policy and economic policy by applying quantitative analytical methods. In 2019, as one of the two recipients of Caltech’s inaugural Milton and Rosalind Chang Career Exploration Prize, Sean McKenna spent nine months traveling in California and researching the housing crisis. He interacted with housing developers, housing service providers, policymakers, political action groups, and the citizens of California to learn about the causes, impacts, and solutions to the housing crisis. He provided an in-depth analysis of the politics and economics underlying the crisis to the 55 attendees, as well as his insights into ways to address the problem.