There is No Housing Crisis!

Illustration by Grace Park

Eric Kwon

Science & Technology Editor

After being holed up in my room for over a year thanks to COVID-19, I was optimistic about living on campus for the first time. I envisioned biking to campus, eating in Isla Vista (I.V.), and having bonfires by the beach among other things. I did not anticipate feeling optimistic about finding housing at all. After hearing of the housing shortage, my concerns shifted from whether I would be able to visit the beach enough, to whether I would be able to see the beach at all. 

I applied for a housing contract in late July for the fall quarter, but the severity of the housing crisis was incredibly surprising. My situation was comparatively not unique or severe at all. I saw post after post of students desperate for housing on Facebook, Reddit — anywhere a housing forum existed. Like pigeons clamoring for a piece of bread, once someone had revealed that they had a room or apartment available, a flood of replies would appear in minutes.  

The limited availability of housing had unfortunate but unsurprising consequences. In the midst of scrambling students, landlords preyed on vulnerable students by charging exorbitant rent prices for dirty, cramped rooms. Scammers posing as landlords became an issue as well. I personally almost ended up paying nearly a thousand dollars deposit for a nonexistent room. It was difficult to distinguish what was legitimate or not when options became progressively more limited, and the desperation began to seep in, in hopes of having a roof over my head.

The university’s response at the time was strange, to say the least. They were unresponsive and negligent, basically telling people to keep looking for housing on different forums — forums where scammers were present. Fellow students with housing were encouraged to lend a helping hand to unhoused students, and an unreasonable pressure was even put on university instructors to provide housing.  

The responsibility of this issue is being allocated to the wrong hands. It should not be on the students nor university professors to resolve an issue poorly oversought by the school administration. Students are here to learn, and professors are here to teach. To expect them to fix an issue under administrative jurisdiction is ridiculous. With the threat of the COVID-19 virus still present, not to mention the novel delta variant, these unconventional fixes became questionable. Students were forced to find housing farther from campus, forcing them to become commuters and others to live in their cars.

Though the university presently claims to have housed everyone that filled out a housing contract, their solution comes with caveats. In my own student apartment, I live in a triple room, but I am sure that the room was designed to be a double. For how many people it houses, it feels small, and furniture is so packed closely together that some drawers do not open. I was supposed to be assigned six roommates as well, but a student was assigned to our room at the last minute, cramming another person into our apartment. This is not an anomaly as I have heard of last minute roommates being assigned in other apartments.

A piece of the university’s “solution” is housing students in hotels, which unfortunately is only a temporary fix. Those students were only promised housing for the fall quarter, according to UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) University & Community Housing Services, and they will be left to find housing on their own in the middle of the school year. It is very unlikely that the housing market will be able to accommodate more students by then.

Even with tentative claims made by the administration, the housing crisis is ever-present. Just a week ago, students organized a protest in response to the poor solutions provided by the administration, clearly indicating that students are still facing housing issues that have not been addressed. Hopefully, student-organized protests and other forms of dissent and disruption will yield a reasonable and tangible response. 

I do not expect the UCSB administration to provide an automatic, magical alternative for what exists right now, and it is unsettling to pretend things are much better than the actual reality. What is the point of clutching to the university’s image when the students who compose it are absent? UCSB students’ basic necessities are still not being met and they are struggling to find a place to live.