Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, housing arrangements by private landlords in Isla Vista and the Community Housing Office (CHO) are being altered for the 2020-2021 school year. Shortly before California’s stay-at-home orders were announced, Chancellor Yang emailed the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) community about the switch to remote courses for all of the Spring quarter and encouraged students to leave as soon as possible for the duration of the academic year.
Responses to the university announcement varied widely, leading some students to cancel their housing arrangements or relocate to another residence entirely. In an interview with The Bottom Line, Isidoro Espinoza-Barajas, a fourth-year sociology and Spanish double major said that during the first week of the Spring quarter, three of his housemates moved out of their San Joaquin apartment to quarantine in a different apartment.
The move allowed Espinoza-Barajas and his housemates to each have separate bedrooms which reduced social interaction and the risk of COVID-19 transmission, a concern for many students. Espinoza-Barajas stated that he appreciates the university’s decision to allow tenants to stay or leave their housing arrangements, unlike other colleges that have simply forced students out of university housing.
CHO and the Associated Students Legal Resource Center are working together to assist students who are still living in their university apartments for the Spring quarter. They are also in the midst of finding solutions for those who need housing arrangements for summer and fall. Last quarter, the housing office emailed IV residents who had asked to be released from their contracts, addressing policies such as how the “COVID-19 outbreak is NOT a ground to terminate a lease” — even in light of the financial and mental hardships many UCSB students are facing.
According to the Legal Resource Center website, many Isla Vista tenants remain responsible for their rent, a possible exception being if a “tenant is immunocompromised and there is a greater risk of infection in the rental property.”
Although some IV tenants have successfully secured subleasers, many students remain stressed over finding a subleaser until the university resumes in-person instruction. Andrea Estrada, the director of News and Media Relations for UCSB Public Affairs and Communications, told The Bottom Line, “making connections between students has been where a lot of our efforts are going right now.” She noted that members of the UCSB and IV community who are seeking subleasers can post on CHO’s rental listings website and similar Facebook groups, such as UCSB Housing and IV Housing.
For students who need to find summer and fall housing, options are still available in university-owned apartments, and Tropicana Villas and Santa Barbara Housing Co-Op are taking new contracts for summer. Additionally, students can receive up to $1,000 to assist with rent in university-owned housing if they are enrolled in at least 12 units of summer school, are a California resident, and are eligible for financial aid. Students who live outside of university-owned housing, but otherwise meet listed criteria, can get up to $500.
Furthermore, Estrada stated she is unsure of what the directive will be for university housing in the following academic year, and that CHO has not received the rent prices for 2020-2021 university housing. Given that there were no changes in rent for the Spring quarter, it is unclear, although unlikely, whether housing prices will be adjusted in the fall due to the pandemic. Espinoza-Barajas urged CHO to give students more direction in regards to fall housing.
“[CHO] hasn’t addressed anything about fall … I have friends who are staying an extra year and are worried that [the university] might not offer housing to them or give priority to incoming students,” he admitted.
CHO is in the process of moving its educational programs online so residents can view them, and has created a how-to video to move in and move out for residents to secure their deposits. Estrada said that she urges students to “slow down and wait for directions until the staff has more information … We are hoping to send out more correspondence regarding UCSB housing options … later this month.”
Currently registered UCSB students may also get legal assistance regarding any landlord-tenant matter from UCSB Legal Resource Center. Isla Vista community members may book an online appointment to get answers to housing questions.