The Housing Dilemma

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As the end of the school year approaches, the housing market in Santa Cruz prepares for the hordes of students seeking a place to live off-campus. Anyone who has experienced the housing search firsthand knows how competitive and frustrating it can be. Open houses oftentimes consist of one property manager taking applications from multiple groups of students, all of whom are hoping to rent the unit.

The housing search, however, is only the beginning of the struggles UCSC students face. Students living in off-campus housing more often than not encounter prolonged issues with rental units. While off-campus housing is relatively inexpensive compared to on-campus housing (estimated at $14,861 a year at UCSC), the price of the unit may not reflect the quality of the unit. Simply put, many Santa Cruz rental properties are overpriced and poorly maintained, and these are the units where students are living.

In an attempt to address the problem of illegal and inadequately kept units, the City of Santa Cruz passed the Residential Rental Inspection and Maintenance Program several years ago. It went into effect on Oct. 7, 2010. The city now officially “red tags” dwellings that do not comply with safety and housing code standards.

While the new rental ordinance has its benefits, there are some drawbacks to it as well. Chief among them is the fact that the units that do not adhere to the safety and housing codes are oftentimes the only dwellings affordable to students.

I am one of the students that has been affected by this new rental ordinance. Last summer I lived in a unit inspected and declared illegal by the City of Santa Cruz. Though I had been living there a month when the inspection took place, the landlords gave me a three-day eviction notice. While the rental ordinance seeks to make the properties safe and suitable for students, there is also the likelihood that students will be harmed in the process.

So how can we keep rental units affordable and legal while minimally affecting the tenants living in them? Civinomics recognizes this problem, and has created an online workshop that addresses student housing in Santa Cruz. Through Civinomics, students and community members—landlords included—can begin airing their ideas about how to solve the housing dilemma in Santa Cruz.  The workshop targets issues specific to students, landlords and community members living with students in their neighborhoods.

You can find the workshop here to add ideas and comments.

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