The Family Student Housing Tenants’ Association argued in a statement Tuesday that the rent increase scheduled to begin this summer is unfair, due to what it says are subpar living conditions.
On Monday, UCSB Housing and Residential Services (H&RS) proposed a 12.2 percent rent increase for the West Campus Family Student Housing and a three percent rent increase at Storke Family Student Housing beginning July 1.
In response to the proposed increases, the Tenants’ Association called the rent hikes “unfair,” due to what it says are poor living conditions at the residences and the extended construction of university-owned housing. The Tenants’ Association is calling upon the university, Residential Services and the Office of the President (UCOP) to end all future rent increases.
Martin Shumaker, Director of Business and Financial Planning at H&RS, said family student housing rent increases three percent each year, according to the department’s long-term rent plan. These increases correspond to operating costs such as labor costs and utilities, Shumaker said.
Shumaker said the Tenants’ Association initially requested, in March 2014, that the university freeze rent for West Campus during the two-year construction of the Sierra Madre apartments. He said the university and the Tenants’ Association both agreed to this proposal, with a stipulation that the rates raise to fit the long-term plan at the end of the two-year period.
Now that construction for Sierra Madre apartments is complete, the proposed 9.2 percent rent increase for West Campus Family Student Housing makes up for the two years of frozen rent, according to H&RS officials. Combined with the annual three percent increase, this will amount to a 12.2 percent increase.
Jessica Parfrey, Tenants’ Association Board president and a West Campus resident, said the Tenants’ Association’s goal is to encourage the housing department to improve the living quality at family student housing, not to “shame” the university.
“There’s all this investment going on around us and no significant money being put into our living conditions, other than getting things up to code, which in my opinion is not an improvement to the amenities,” said Parfrey, third-year environmental studies and biological anthropology double major.
“The three percent is standard … it happens not just in family housing; it happens in all of our residential units,” said Jessica Fougere, placement service manager of housing and residential services. “So there’s always a percentage increase; because everything goes up in cost each year, the cost of anybody living anywhere goes up.”
Residents of university-owned housing have voiced concern over the rent increase and explained that issues such as unsanitary living conditions, outdated plumbing and inadequate kitchenware should invalidate higher costs for student families.
“It infuriates me to think us students who come here with our families . . . have to live in these conditions, whether we like it or not, because it’s all that’s available to us in the affordable housing shortage of [Isla Vista] and larger Santa Barbara area,” said Jessica Foster, a fifth-year environmental studies major and West Campus resident, in an email.
“West Campus is a half-dilapidated, subpar housing complex for student families,” said Brian Griffith, a graduate student who lives on West Campus. “We have lead-based paint in our homes. We have dirty water . . . We have, and have had, construction all around us for several years … If anything, these deteriorating living conditions deserve a rent decrease. So the least housing can do is freeze our rental rates as they are.”
Correction: A featured image initially showed West Campus Faculty Housing, it now shows West Campus Family Housing.
A version of this story appeared on p. 3 of the Thursday, May 5, 2016 print edition of the Daily Nexus.