UCSC’s Housing Crisis: A Cautionary Tale

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Madison Kirkpatrick

There are several factors that go into making a student’s college experience special: quality of education, level of student engagement, and, most importantly, living experience. Since much of a student’s formative college experience comes from living on-campus during their freshman year, we must consider how the community will react to this crisis, and what the state can do to fix it.

Silicon Valley is experiencing a major housing crisis, and recently, administrative officials at the University of California, Santa Cruz reached out to faculty in the area asking them to open extra rooms in their homes to hundreds of students currently on the UCSC housing waitlist. The university explained that there is simply not enough affordable living arrangements are available.

The situation at UCSC first became public in August 2018 when UCSC housing director Dave Keller published an open letter in the UCSC Newsletter to university faculty and staff describing a “real and urgent” need to house students during the upcoming school year. The reasoning is that the school does not have enough on-campus housing or community rentals available for students.

The decision by the university to reach out to the wider community for help has prompted many to ask if this is fair to staff who are both unequipped and under no obligation to house students. It should also be considered that students who are paying thousands of dollars for university should have housing guaranteed.

This unprecedented move by the UCSC administration has led many to use the issue in order to advance their own political motives. Breitbart writer Chriss Street wrote an article blaming the housing crisis on the fact that UCSC is a “liberal campus,” claiming that the crisis is providing the “ultra-liberal campus with an unplanned lesson in how building restrictions are driving a statewide housing crisis.”

But is political stance really to blame in this case? Instead, there should be more focus on the fact that there is a lack of affordable housing at UCSC altogether. Regardless of the housing situation in Silicon Valley, the university has a duty to make sure that the safety, comfort, and general well-being of its tuition-paying students is unequivocally provided for. 

The most important thing to remember in this case is that students are the ones who deserve to be treated fairly by the administration. The best way to ensure that students are having the most positive housing experience possible is to lower the price of housing, which is something that students across the UC system are fighting for.

As stated in an article by KQED, UC Berkeley student Sania Khan is a prime example of a student who is suffering from Silicon Valley housing costs. College was almost not an option for Khan due to the high cost, and she had to make several sacrifices in order to be able to attend a four-year university, like being away from her three-year-old son.

While the situation at UCSB is nowhere near the magnitude of the situation at UCSC, the idea of being forced to live off-campus in the home of a stranger is a ludicrous proposition that is unfathomable to many college students.

At this point in time, UC Santa Cruz needs urgent help, and the facts can’t be ignored. To make expensive commodities hard to obtain is decreasing students’ quality of life during a crucial time in their lives, and there needs to be a better way to ensure students are treated fairly. If the university administration expects students to spend thousands of dollars on housing, they deserve the best quality their money can buy.


  1. The housing situation in Santa Cruz is indeed difficult and has many causes including insufficient housing construction in Silicon Valley (resulting in use of Santa Cruz as a bedroom community), NIMBYism in Santa Cruz (slowing or preventing the construction of more housing), the constraint on UC that housing must be self-supporting (no subsidies allowed from tuition, fees, or state funds), the recency of much of the UCSC housing construction (resulting in high debt loads that still needs to be paid off), the forced growth of the student population without corresponding growth in resources, … .

    There are many “simple” solutions, but all of them have serious costs or other consequences: reducing the number of students at UCSC, building more housing in the city, building more housing on campus, removing Highway 17 so people can’t commute to Silicon Valley, massive failure of the tech industries so that there aren’t such high-paying jobs in Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley building enough housing, … .

    Santa Cruz does not have the surplus of housing that Isla Vista and Goleta have, so solutions to increased student populations in Santa Cruz are harder to implement.

  2. The writer seems unaware that UCSC houses more students on campus, percentage wise, than any other UC. The housing crisis isn’t freshmen, but older students. Hard to argue with the rest of it though!

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