Rachel Bujalski

Location: Sebastopol, California, United States

My work focuses on the larger scope of the housing crisis in California today.
Exploring living situations from the street to cars, RVs, boats, and communes — ultimately trying to answer the question, “What is home?”

Before the pandemic California had the highest number of households spending more than 30% of their income on housing with 42% of Californians struggling to make ends meet. Now, during the pandemic, 4 million people are unemployed and almost 50% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. For the poorest Americans, affording adequate housing has long been a challenge, but even the middle class are struggling.

The median price for a house in Los Angeles is over $600,000 — more than twice the national level. California accounts for 12 percent of the U.S. population, but a quarter of its homeless population. How did this happen? From outdated zoning laws to a 40-year-old tax provision that benefits longtime homeowners at the expense of everyone else — this has created a severe shortage of houses. While decades in the making, homelessness has reached a critical point for state officials, businesses and the millions who are straining to live here. Things have been bad for a long time. Now, the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable it is to be without shelter.

This critical moment is an opportunity for us to do better. Forcing people from place to place and into alternative living situations are not viable long-term solutions. Under normal circumstances it provides no protection from catching a sickness let alone a virus. The government must create more affordable housing, and it’s up to us to hold their feet to the fire. Through this work, I aim to understand what creates a real home, what the driving reasons people are living in these alternative ways and what could be long-term solutions.

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