No Place Like Home emerged out of two ongoing research initiatives: Critical Sustainabilities, led by Miriam Greenberg, and Working for Dignity, led by Steve McKay. Both projects arrived at the importance of affordable housing via issues of sustainability and labor, respectively. Local community partners working with low-income residents of Santa Cruz also identified affordable housing as their most important need, while joint research found the lack of affordable housing is a primary driver of the high poverty rate in Santa Cruz County (22%). This was particularly the case for the majority of low-income residents who rent in the county. Yet there was a dearth of data on, or representation of how low-income renters experience the housing crisis, as well as the multiple impacts—both social and ecological—of unaffordable and precarious housing for our community more broadly.


No Place Like Home launched in Fall, 2015 to research and represent these experiences and impacts, as well as to explore potential responses to the crisis. We chose to do this through a variety of methods, both quantitative and qualitative, to be undertaken by teams of UC Santa Cruz undergraduate and graduate students:

  • – a renter survey
  • – historical and policy analysis
  • – targeted interviews
  • – creative non-fiction
  • – audio documentaries
  • – photography
  • – mapping

This is a community-initiated, student-engaged project, meaning that many of our core questions and concerns come from our community partners, and our students are trained in all the above methods to carry out the research, together with faculty, graduate students, and research center support.

Student Engagement

Students first work directly with our community partner, Community Bridges, to get to know the community—helping with neighborhood clean-ups, tutoring youth in after-school programs, participating in Health Fairs, volunteering in the Beach Flats Garden, and putting on an outdoor Movie Night for Beach Flats residents. Students then conduct the field surveys and interviews (approximately 60% in Spanish), as well as develop the multi-media content and platform for the project’s public components. Many of our students are bi-lingual Spanish-speakers and first-generation college students, and most chose to participate in the project due to their own experiences with housing issues.

In Miriam Greenberg’s class “Eco-Metropolis,” in Winter 2016, students analyzed the roots of the affordable housing crisis nationally, statewide, and in Santa Cruz, while also examining its social and ecological impacts. Many of these same students then enrolled in Steve McKay’s Spring 2016 course devoted to getting to know the communities, then gathering a survey of and targeted interviews with renters in Santa Cruz.

In the first phase of our survey, we chose to focus on renters in the neighborhoods of Beach Flats, Lower Ocean, and Lower Pacific, since these are neighborhoods with high renter populations, are primarily low-income neighborhoods, and also are areas with a high percentage of Latino residents. We chose this population because Spanish-speaking and low-income renters are often under-counted as they are "difficult-to-reach" populations that may not respond to census or telephone surveys. However, because the rent-burden is often highest on these demographic groups, we wanted to make sure we collected high-quality data on this under-research population. Overall, our team of 54 students worked in bi-lingual teams of two to collected 435 valid renter surveys between April and June, 2016 in Beach Flats, Lower Ocean, and portions of Lower Pacific. We also collected 29 in-depth interviews.

In the second phase of the project, we will expand the survey to the unincorporated area of Live Oak and the city of Watsonville, collecting an estimated xxx additional surveys. Students will also embark on a variety of multimedia projects making use of survey data, interviews, and archival research. This will include audio documentaries, story mapping, and creative non-fiction treatment, all of which will be included on this site, and at a public launch of the project in Fall of 2017.