The Santa Cruz Housing Crisis: A Student’s Perspective

I thought my “first-home-experience” would look more like this:


But I was never able to capture such an Instagram-worthy photo due to the excessive mold, soiled walls, and grimy carpets that instead disturbed me and my housemates’ view. Yes, I had unfortunately found myself in a common Santa Cruz-style housing nightmare, a story almost always told from the perspective of exploited students.

Is it because us young students are too blinded by the prospects of having our own place? Did this naivety curb me from seeing the signs of this shady lease?


But my quickness to jump into signing a lease wasn’t wholly due to naivety and ignorance. Truthfully, as with most UCSC students pinching pennies during their college years, I was more intimidated by the fleeting and few affordable housing options even available. So yes, a small ‘cozy’ cottage, seemingly well-priced, and just an account wiring away did seem like a dream come true.

The 'Admissions Funnel'


UCSC Room & Board Increase 2009-2014

I could go on about the well established statistics and notorious facts on consistently rising admissions, the stagnate supply of dwellings, and outrageous costs of on-campus housing. But, this perpetual ‘housing crisis’ rhetoric fails to reveal what’s really at stake: with only a week until Fall quarter begins, there are still hundreds of other students struggling to find a home.

So instead, I would rather present a perspective often overlooked or missed altogether– the student perspective. These accounts told on social media unveil the human element that breathes life and real urgency into the numbers:


These students’ anxiety-riddled posts point to a fateful truth: perhaps there isn’t enough room for all of us.

It is a shame that the argument over the housing crisis in Santa Cruz has only been simplified into a controversial and never-ending debate over pro- vs anti-growth. What should matter is exactly what these confessions reveal, some of the people who are really suffering: students unable to obtain the basic necessity of finding a home while pursuing an education.

As one step towards a possible solution, check out and vote on my colleague Robert Singleton’s proposal to create a regional housing strategic plan.

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  1. Chris Nunez says:

    Have you stopped to think that your willingness to not just pay these prices for housing, and even double up to share these housing expenses is part of why those who are not students are priced out of the housing market?

    In four years or so you’ll be leaving Santa Cruz and heading back home, or elsewhere, but residents are here to stay and stressed to continue paying ‘what the market will bear.’

    Some folks would like to know why the university with all that land up there can’t build apartments or condominiums for the incoming students and take the pressure off of the residents in Santa Cruz? And by the way, it’s mostly the students and faculty up there at UCSC who are big on ‘sustainability’ and carrying capacity who are at the heart of the anti-growth movement… Think about it — and remember “An injury to one is an injury to all!” So if you’re only thinking about students and ignoring the impact on residents then you’re possibly perpetuating and fueling that ‘debate over pro- vs anti-growth.’ So, tell us, why does the university not built apartments or condominiums up there on that hillside?

    • Chris Nunez. At the same time, don’t leave it to a 4 year student to solve the problem. While a student is willing to share a 10 x 12 bedroom to survive, in a 2 bedroom condo that cost $3,000 per month they are still paying a premium. If it is $1,000 per month plus water, gas, electric etc., for a student to then take a bus and taxis to be able to go to the library to study, it is the student who is injured. It is illegal to rent places with mold and filth for that price or any price. It is not their job to keep up the habitability standard and if you think that residents are not ripping students off you are nuts. There are responsible landlords who provide habitable, affordable housing for students…those who don’t are taking advantage and some are simply

    • Erika Garcilazo says:

      Although I do sympathize with this article since I am a 4th year UCSC student, I have lived here year round for over a year in the beach flats area and have seen how the lower socioeconomic class of Santa Cruz struggles with the terrible housing situation. It is so elitist and selfish to think this is only a students’ problem in Santa Cruz, as it so often is portrayed.We have to look at Santa Cruz’s housing problem from all perspectives. In other words maybe we as ucsc students should stop looking at Santa Cruz as a community and city that serves solely us the students, that’s outright living in a bubble of privilege. Chris Nunez says it right, it may be super tough to have to put up with the situation in the meantime, but we have the privilege of choosing to come to ucsc and we leave in less than 5 years. . . so maybe we should think about that versus the situation of the working class and families who have deep roots in the community and have little opportunity to move out. This article does however shine light to the fact that something should be done to improve the housing situation in Santa Cruz, but its something we as an inclusive community need to figure out together.

    • Stephen Hauskins says:

      The housing market here definitely has a component related to rentals for university students but this is a coastal city- a place where many people what to live. There probably needs to be tougher rules for those who want to rent properties, or maybe not.
      The entire real estate market is intertwined with rentals and people who live in their homes. Everyone who owns real estate wants the value to go up.

      As to housing on campus there is alot. But UCSC is always challenged by various groups and the city when they want to build more campus housing.

  2. Stephen Hauskins says:

    You have to keep some things in perspective. Campus housing includes your meals (most of them) and basic furnishings, even internet access in each room. There is also the people who take care of the dorms and apartments. Cleaning, cooking, serving, and even the grounds maintenance . These people get paid via the fees collected to live in campus housing. Then add to this the utilities.

    As to housing in the city, it is expense, but that is because the property values are high and the mortgage and maintenance for these property, along with various taxes comes from the people who rent the property. People who buy real estate here are hoping to make a profit over time.

    I want to preface my next comment with stating that I believe the majority of students treat the rental properties well. On the other hand, there are many who simply wreck and destroy the places they live in. I even see this in a minor way at campus housing. There is also the drain on public resources for party houses that can be disruptive to the people living around them.

    Chris – the campus has a lot of on campus housing. Even a housing complex for families.
    This link will show you what is offered.

  3. David says:

    UCSC just needs to admit fewer students. It’s that simple. Bring the freshman class down to 3000, and you’ll be doing fine.

  4. Mario Canepa says:

    I have lived here all my life,62 years! The UC has since being built had a major negative impact on Santa Cruz in more ways than good!! But it is here so the impact needs to be dealt with in a positive way!!! The so called government here needs to be entirely changed with new people with honest representation of all residents not their own pet peeves!!!! We definitely need more water drought or not!!!! Sewage disposal,traffic,ect. How about desal and better sewage disposal coming out of State money.That would allow more housing on campus less impact on residents!!! Traffic in SC. Is always going to be a nightmare with all the bike lanes and such reducing car lanes!!! We can give up a little of the Eco protection and put in a few streets to ease traffic flow!!! Extending Broadway to Brommer good example!!! Churches get all the breaks tax ways so why can’t city appropriate a little of there property on Frederick so it???? I know I am probably not putting across any real plan but I hope the general idea is there!!!!!!

  5. Jeanne says:

    The university already sits on 45% of the land that it owns, and it is not allowed to build on more that 50% of the land. That leaves 5% of 2,000 acres to build upon, which may require cutting down redwoods in order to accommodate the new housing. I think that the university should admit less students and be more selective in the students that they do admit. I also think that if students are guaranteed a 2 year housing contract, then the university should uphold that and not offer new housing contracts to upperclassmen. How is it fair that juniors and seniors get priority selection for on campus apartments when there is no room in dorms for sophomores who have a guaranteed housing contract?

  6. Peg Popken says:

    One factor that rarely get in to the mix is the complex nature of the physical enviroment. We have a great number of plants and animals that one live here . A geological structure that is fractured and prone to move. ( being grounded here also means a bit of flexible living ). Plus short steep valleys that flood. All these are part of our charm it is also why building here is complex. The infrastructure is also lacking much of the county to support more housing. A large level lot may not be a good candidate for housing because of high ground water and no sewer system or public water system. Not all land has drinkable water under it. So some of this is just the way it is and we all struggle with the limits. That said taking care of what housing stock we have is important . if you rent be mindful of how you live in a home. It may be needed by an other student or person. Landlords need to do what they can to have healthy placed to rent. And the university could be more mindful of the ability for the community to house excess students.


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