As the 2022-2023 school year approaches, many Gauchos have been stressing about finding housing, including me! I foolishly decided to start searching for housing in March but at that point, it seemed like any and all affordable housing options were already leased! Luckily, I was able to secure a place with my boyfriend but there are still plenty of other students (some that I know personally) who still are dealing with this problem.
While it’s easy to blame oneself for not being able to find housing this ‘late’ into the year, the number of students still in need of housing points to greater problems at work including UCSB’s over-enrollment and the general housing crisis that occurs in many college towns like Isla Vista.
Over-enrollment at UCSB
Over the past decade, enrollment at UCSB has skyrocketed despite efforts to keep the student population under control. One effort being 2010’s Long Range Development Plan, or LRDP, which intended maximum enrollment to be capped at 25,000 by 2025. However, this number was surpassed by the Fall quarter of 2018. The plan also intended to house half of all students on-campus but has only built housing for 1,500 students and Munger Hall, a controversial dormitory that aims to be a solution, won’t be ready until at least 2025.
If this didn’t seem bad enough, UCSB also admitted 97% of its waitlisted students in 2020, presumably due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and has failed to provide sufficient housing for them in the past year as school has begun to be in-person. The UC system cannot place all blame onto the pandemic, though, as student homelessness has been rising over the past decade. COVID-19 has only exacerbated a preexisting problem, forcing many students to seek housing outside of UCSB’s neighboring college town, Isla Vista, and search for spots in the city of Goleta. The city has responded to this by suing UCSB for not providing sufficient housing for its students, which it promised to do in the 2010 plan mentioned above.
This is very ironic considering this past quarter’s strict in-person instruction policies, one would expect UCSB to at least be able to properly house the number of students that are attending. Sadly, this is not the case forcing many students who can’t find or afford housing in the current climate to decide between living in their cars or not attending UCSB altogether.
Housing Crisis in College Towns
UCSB is not alone in having a housing crisis, however, as this epidemic seems to affect college students all across the nation. In fact, according to a report by ABCNews, “43% of four-year college students experienced housing insecurity in 2020” along with financial difficulties in paying for rent and utilities, while many students who were able to acquire housing reported overcrowded living situations.
For low-income students across the nation, the housing crisis has been yet another factor that has robbed millions of their college experiences, an unfortunate development that will no doubt reverberate in unknown ways during the coming years.
This housing crisis is very real. I witnessed the effects of it through my boyfriend who had to live in his van this past year and ultimately ended up deferring spring quarter and moving back home because it became too hard. This added to my initial stress about even being able to secure housing for next year as I realized that this could easily become anyone’s reality.
Luckily, there are resources available for students in need of emergency housing along with some that assist in helping students find affordable housing. There are also Facebook groups for UCSB students in search of housing that are updated daily with available spots. Most importantly, the University itself should be held accountable for the stress it has brought to its students during this crisis. Hybrid learning options could help relieve a lot of the urgency many feel to acquire housing during such a difficult time and if enough students make an effort to advocate for it, we can surely create a change that will help accommodate every student in need!