By Daniel Correia
UC Santa Cruz student Lacy Adams lives in a walk-in closet of a master bedroom on the Eastside of Santa Cruz.
"I only pay $280 after utilities and everything," Adams said. "Considering I’m trying to be financially responsible for myself, it’s a lot easier to pay rent this way."
While her living situation is a unique one, Adams represents one of many students who decided to move off-campus after freshman year, a trait that many local residents in Santa Cruz complain attributes to higher rental prices, housing shortages, and a decreased quality of living.
"As of last year, 98 percent of all first-year freshmen lived on-campus and 45 percent of all undergraduates lived on-campus," said Julian Fernald, Director of Institutional Research at UCSC.
Housing on campus at UCSC begins at $966 per month for a room in a small triple, including the mandatory five-day meal plan. Trends show that most of the 13,000-plus undergraduates choose to live off-campus after their freshman year.
With the majority of students seeking refuge in the city, many housing problems could be multiplied with the gradual addition of 5,000 new students as proposed by the university’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
"There’s a particular crisis on the Westside near downtown," city councilmember Mike Rotkin said.
"The prices have shot up through the years and we’ve ended up with all kinds of problems like parking and traffic issues, as well as over-crowding. The city works hard to build affordable housing, but we’re worried it will be sucked up by the university."
Many students, like UCSC student Christeal Milburn, moved off-campus for a multitude of reasons.
"When you live on campus, you live like a poor person, but you pay so much for housing and food," Milburn said. "Personally, I would rather feel like I’m a part of the town-pay less for more, have more control over what I eat, and decide whether I have cable or not. But some people really appreciate not having to think about those things."
Housing off-campus has become extremely competitive. Cabrillo student Sam Lyons stayed with a number of friends for two months before he found a place on the Eastside.
"I guess there’s just too much demand and not enough supply," Lyons said. "The minimum price for your own room is around $500. I chose to live on the Eastside because it’s cheaper and less crowded."
This summer, Jim Brown, a Stevenson alumnus, realized the competitiveness of the housing market from the renter’s perspective when he received over 40 responses to an online advertisement in one day.
"I rented out the room nine hours after posting my Craigslist ad," Brown said. "I actually gave it to a girl who called within the first 10 minutes my post was up. She had been sitting there with checkbook in hand hitting refresh on the computer. I guess she was beaten out by other students in the past and was determined to be first."
According to UCSC Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal, the creation of increased on-campus housing could potentially host dangerous consequences.
"When students live on campus, they’re paying the debt service on the money that we borrowed to build the housing," Blumenthal said. "Decisions we make today on building are going to asffect us for many years into the future. That’s why we have to be somewhat conservative. If we guess wrong and we build too much, every student for the next 20 years is going to have to pay for it."