UCSB housing remains in crisis

Long before this year’s public fury against the UCSB-proposed mega-dormitory and Goleta’s lawsuit for the school’s apparent non-compliance with its 2010 Long-Term Development Plan (LRDP), the supervisor of the 3rd District Joan Hartmann and District Representative Gina Fischer sensed a problem. In order to meet its LRDP obligations, the UCSB had to build 5,000 additional beds by 2025 while capping the average number of enrollments on campus at 25,000 students. In 2017, when enrollments were already reaching the limit, the university had only completed apartments to accommodate 1,515 additional students. But in communications with Hartmann, Fischer and other stakeholders like Sustainable University Now (SUN), a community coalition, UCSB officials assured that the deliverance would arrive in the form of a dormitory, known as from Munger Hall.

These assurances did not have the desired effect. One of the problems, Fischer said, was UCSB’s reluctance to its specific plans, leaving stakeholders unaware of Munger Hall’s more controversial features. “Over the past two or three years that the county has met with UCSB, we have always asked them to provide details such as a firm schedule for the construction of Munger Hall. Nevertheless, we were only given a vague idea of ​​what was going on until the middle of [July 2021]. “It was at this point that the university released the complete design of Munger Hall.

The lack of windows in the bedrooms and a limited number of exits for 4,500 residents raised intense questions about the livability and safety of the community, teachers and alumni; The outcry was so out of proportion that there was a question whether the project would go ahead at all despite UCSB’s optimistic projections. “The community at large is very concerned about whether it is possible for Munger Hall to be licensed and if it should be,” Hartmann said.

SUN Chairman Richard Flacks is not optimistic about his outlook: “The fact that [Munger Hall] is so heavy with opposition that we doubt it will be done at any time. “

Since UCSB has no plans for any further projects, its ability to meet the 2025 housing deadline depends entirely on Munger Hall’s victory in what Fischer called an uphill battle for approval. “As it stands, it’s hard to see how they will be able to close the 3,500 bed gap by 2025,” she said. Goleta chose not to wait for a miracle, instead suing UCSB for failing to provide adequate housing for its students, as reported in the LRDP.

According to the UCSB “Where Students Live” report, the average number of registrations out of three quarters in 2020-2021 (excluding studies abroad) was 25,103. Andrea Estrada argued that the report included some students who were off campus in unspecified programs. Either way, the persistent gap between enrollment and available university accommodation has left some students homeless, something a Munger Hall tomorrow won’t alleviate.

A graduate student, who asked to be called “Zhang” for this story, returned from two years of research abroad in 2019 to find that there was no accommodation for the graduates. His chances of getting off the waiting list were minimal due to the university’s policy of prioritizing first- and second-year students. For a year, he lived from roof to roof, sometimes on friends ‘sofas, sometimes in the teachers’ house. In her most desperate times, Zhang found temporary shelter in the campus spaces, trying to sleep until the next day, announced by maintenance crews early in the morning and loud music. According to Zhang, the university provided little help. “Since they didn’t have a specific contact for homelessness issues, I called some housing numbers for help. All they did was put me in touch with a psychologist.

The alternative to university accommodation lies with private landlords, but ever-increasing rents have made this option unaffordable for many students. In 2017, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment was $ 2,598; in 2020 it was $ 2,947. Although Zhang’s higher education allowance may have been enough for him to pay the rent for a few apartments, the landlords fired him straight away because it was not a regular salary. “Some landlords have even insisted that tenants maintain a salary three times the monthly rent,” he explained. “The money UCSB was providing me was not close to $ 6,000 a month.” Although Zhang eventually found a place to live, he had to find a full-time job to afford it. And he considered himself lucky.

In addition to an endowment of $ 585.5 million, as of June 2021, and income generated from sources such as tuition and rent, UCSB also receives support from UC Regents and the State. from California. In 2017 and 2018, the Regents allocated a total of $ 57 million to campuses for housing projects, with each campus having the discretion to address its most urgent housing needs. In the 2021-22 budget accord, California allocated $ 100 million for UC campus housing, with an additional $ 300 million prepared for 2022-2023 and 2023-2024. Although the total amount is less than the $ 600 million originally requested by UC, some stakeholders maintain that the issue of student housing is a priority rather than funding.

“[UCSB] expense for many other types of facilities, ”Hartmann said. “These facilities are important, but I think that [UCSB] has the resources to simultaneously invest in housing, especially given current housing interest rates and the fact that campuses typically recover housing costs through rent. The UCSB did not respond to questions about the school’s share of state or Regent funds or whether funding was a notable issue.

Amid public controversy and legal escalation, UCSB students continue to suffer the brunt of an acute housing crisis. Even when students find short-term refuge, stress can take a toll on their mental health and academic commitments. “As a graduate student, my energy should be devoted to researching and writing my thesis,” Zhang said. “But all the time spent looking for accommodation and all the stress that had accumulated seriously hampered my ability to concentrate.”

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