UCSB’s housing crisis: when will it end?

UC Santa Barbara students have struggled with housing for decades. In recent months, the problem has become larger than ever as hundreds of students are left with unstable housing.

Isla Vista, California

By: Alejandra Lara and Kaitlyn Soto

01 June 2022 || 8:05 a.m.

Isla Vista, otherwise known as “I.V.,” is a populous college town located outside of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). With a population of 20,000 in just a one square mile radius, I.V. is home to approximately 11,289 UCSB students. Other residents in I.V. include Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) students, families with children, a few UCSB faculty and staff members, and long term residents.

In September of 2021, hundreds of UCSB students were victims of the University’s housing shortage. It is suspected that UCSB overcompensated for their monetary loss from the COVID-19 pandemic by over admitting students for the 2021-2022 academic school year. Because additional housing options were not considered ahead of time, this resulted in stress, trauma, and hardships as many students were left homeless.

Since then, UCSB has provided meager solutions to their housing crisis, including living in hotels far from campus or planning windowless dormitories. The manner in which UCSB has addressed the housing issue is, in short, inadequate and unacceptable. Therefore, it is vital for people to learn the negative effects of the University’s solutions, how students are affected by the crisis to this day, and what resources are available for students experiencing unstable housing conditions.

LRDP & Munger Hall:

In past decades, UCSB has had housing plans delayed and derailed constantly, which eventually led to the housing crisis today. To begin, in 2008, campus administrators drafted a Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), which is a contract between UCSB, Santa Barbara County, and Goleta. This contract addresses a wide range of issues, including student and faculty housing. Overall, the LDRP would eventually build several UCSB dorms over the next 15 years. However, in 2015, billionaire Charles Munger made a $200 million offer for the construction of a dorm that would potentially house 5,000 UCSB students. As a result, Munger’s offer caused the campus to put aside their original plans with LRDP.

In 2021, the architect plan for Munger Hall was released, which was designed by Although this new dormitory will provide 4500 additional beds for students, it understandably receives much backlash from UCSB students, faculty, and local community members, due to each dorm space housing eight individuals, yet not having any windows. Instead, students are promised fresh air supply through mechanical ventilation and virtual windows that simulate daylight.

Upon hearing about Munger Hall, hundreds of students protested and petitioned moving forward with the production of the dormitory. Despite 12,000 individuals signing these petitions, Munger has not changed any of his controversial plans thus far, stating he has “very specific ideas about housing.” Munger Hall is expected to be completed by 2025 in order to fulfill the LRDP plans the University made previously in 2008.

The housing crisis in I.V. needs to be addressed; however, a windowless dormitory was not the solution UCSB students, faculty, and community members had envisioned. Overall, UCSB students are upset that Munger Hall does not effectively solve the housing crisis issue. After raising concerns about the issue and not feeling their opinions are being listened to, the frustration and panic as plans begin to come in place is a housing crisis nightmare for the UCSB and I.V. community.

Ocean Road Project:

Aside from student housing, part of the LRDP includes expanding faculty housing, which UCSB has called Ocean Road. This housing project will provide 540 faculty housing units, including 180 two and three bedroom townhomes and 360 rental units. However, the Ocean Road project is also a controversial topic amongst UCSB and I.V. members. For example, the project includes tearing down a row of eucalyptus trees that line the street between the campus and I.V.–many members of the community are not fond of the negative environmental impacts of the construction of these homes.

The Ocean Road project still requires further approval before the University can move forward with its construction. Despite this, Ocean Road is still expected to be finished prior to 2025, which will fulfill the University’s LRDP, but hurt I.V. ‘s goal to become a more environmentally conscious community.

UCSB’s Inadequate Solutions:

As a result of the University’s unprecedented housing crisis, more than 360 UCSB students

were placed in ten hotels surrounding the Goleta area during the fall quarter of 2021. Although this was a temporary solution, only 60 hotel-housed students were able to move into campus housing during the winter quarter, and 40 students were able to move into I.V.

Aside from the hotels, students find themselves living in private apartments also in the Goleta area, and many are even forced to settle for housing in Downtown Santa Barbara, which is approximately ten miles away from campus.

There are many drawbacks to these housing “solutions.” For starters, it cultivates a lack of community for students, especially those who are first-years or transfer students. Living in UCSB’s on-campus housing is an opportunity for new students to meet others simply by living in close proximity to one another, eating at the dining halls, or participating in residence hall socials. Not having equal access to these opportunities greatly affects the social life of students living further away from campus.

Additionally, UCSB is widely-known to be a socially-driven University. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, Del Playa and Sabado Tarde are filled with UCSB and SBCC students gathering with their friends. For many of these students, walking home after a night out is easily an option because they live near these streets. However, a student who lives in Goleta or Downtown does not have this same luxury. Their few options include hopping into an overpriced Lyft or not being able to go out with their friends.

In order to get to campus, most students have to drive or take the bus because biking is not a plausible option at that distance. Driving, however, costs a lot of money–especially with the surge in gas prices these past months. It also requires purchasing a $120 quarterly parking pass through the University, as street parking is scarce in I.V. These are costs that are very challenging for college students to pay, so it is difficult for many of them to justify going to class. Not only does this affect the students’ educational opportunity and experience, but they are not receiving the education they deserve after paying so much money to attend UCSB.

Buses are an option for students to take, and luckily, the campus creates a schedule that includes Downtown Santa Barbara. However, these bus stops can still be far for students, so many are forced to bike to stops, or give themselves plenty of time to walk over. This calculated time is unfair for these students, especially since most have the luxury of living less than a mile from campus. Additionally, the buses are not available 24 hours for students. Most begin operating at 7:43 am, which is not nearly enough time for students in Downtown to make it to their 8 am courses, especially since the buses are notorious for running late. Moreover, the buses stop operating for the night between 10:09 pm to 10:43 pm, meaning students have to take this into consideration when staying late on campus. During testing weeks, the UCSB library is packed with students studying with each other. Being in this shared space motivates students to continue studying; however, the students taking a bus are, once again, stripped from this opportunity.

Overall, the calculated time and costs for students living outside of I.V. is ridiculous. The time it takes to travel to campus differs each day; bus schedules cannot be fully relied upon; and many students are unable to use eco-friendly forms of transportation, such as bicycles. All of these factors, along with missing out on social activities, are simply more reasons why the housing crisis in UCSB is unacceptable, and therefore, needs to be addressed in a more proper manner.

How the Housing Crisis Raises Rent and Affects Students:

As we near the end of the school year, many peers have voiced their worry about whether or not they will have stable housing next school year. Many students look for places to rent for months on top of months prior to their leases ending, yet they are still unable to find housing. Even when housing is located, students face the struggle of being able to afford paying rent for that unit, as rent prices have surged since the beginning of the housing crisis. For example, rent for a triple bedroom can range from $700 to $1000 in I.V. Additionally, Facebook Pages for I.V. apartment promotions show average rents nearing $1000 to $1200 per individual. Paying $1000 for a shared bedroom with two other individuals as a college student is outrageous. This forces many students to drop out of school or live far far away in order to attend UCSB, simply because they can not afford to live here.

Resources for Students:

The housing shortage at UCSB has gone on for far too long. Unfortunately, after learning about the University’s “solutions” to the problem, it is evident the crisis is far from over. Even if the University moves forward with Munger Hall or Ocean Road, these are not options for another four years, meaning until then, students are continuously going to be left with unstable housing conditions. If students are going to get through the next four years, it is evident UCSB needs to implement additional short-term solutions in order to address its crisis.

If you or someone you know is struggling with housing issues, here are some resources UCSB has readily available for its students:

  • The University & Community Housing Office: 805-893-4371 or [email protected]
  • Emergency Shelters and Transitional Living: (805) 893-3087 or visit www.fsacares.org/2-1-1-helpline
  • AS/EOP Emergency Grants for Housing: submissions every Thursday
  • Those who are at risk of homelessness should speak with a UCSB social worker: (805) 893-3087
  • Isla Vista Tenants Union: (805) 968-6704 or for more information visit http://ivtu.as.ucsb.edu

For more information: Housing and Shelter

Works Cited

Flacks, Dick. “UC Santa Barbara Housing Mysteries.” Santa Barbara Independent. 05 April

2022. https://www.independent.com/2022/04/05/uc-santa-barbara-housing-mysteries/

Iyer, Atmika and Holly Rusch. “Nexus Explained: Long Range Development Plan, Ocean Road

Housing and Munger Hall Housing.” Daily Nexus University of California, Santa Barbara. 06 December 2021. https://dailynexus.com/2021-12-06/nexus-explained-long-range-development-plan-ocean-road-housing-and-munger-hall-housing/

Kamidi, Sanya and Evelyn Spence. “University Takes Second Attempt at Controversial Faculty

Housing Project.” Daily Nexus University of California, Santa Barbara. 21 November 2019. https://dailynexus.com/2019-11-21/university-takes-second-attempt-at-controversial-faculty-housing-project/

Marsano, Dr. Viviana. “UCSB and Isla Vista 2020 Census Presentation to Redistricting

Commission.” University of California, Santa Barbara. 01 February 2021. https://drawsantabarbaracounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/20210201_Dr__Viviana_Marsano_UCSB_Census_Complete_Count_Update.pdf

Martinez-Pogue, Jade. “UCSB Working to Address Student Housing Shortage, But Some Say

It’s Not Enough.” Noozhawk. 03 September 2021. https://www.noozhawk.com/article/uc_santa_barbara_working_to_address_housing_shortage_20210903

Medved, Shoshana. “The History of the Housing Shortage.” The Bottom Line: University of

California, Santa Barbara. 20 October 2021. https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2021/10/the-history-of-the-housing-shortage

Shuda, Asumi. “Design Review Committee Reviews Details on Munger Hall.” Daily Nexus

University of California, Santa Barbara. 18 October 2021. https://dailynexus.com/2021-10-18/design-review-committee-reviews-details-on-munger-hall/

Vukcevich, Marc. “The Lack of Windows is Not the Only Design Problem With Munger Hall.”

Daily Nexus University of California, Santa Barbara. 01 December 2021. https://dailynexus.com/2021-12-01/the-lack-of-windows-is-not-the-only-design-problem-with-munger-hall/

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