Low rents and a safe community have made University Family Student Housing a popular living choice, although some residents claim fungus has soiled its reputation.
The University-owned Family Student Housing (FSH) apartments, located in two separate complexes one mile west of the main campus, called the West Campus apartments and Storke apartments, are a less expensive alternative to most I.V. housing. A one-bedroom condo at the West Campus apartments runs for $495 a month, while two bedrooms at the Storke complex is about $689.
“Campus housing at UCSB, whether it is family or single student housing, is a good deal. The market rate for similar housing in I.V. or Santa Barbara is much, much higher. Family Student Housing is about 60 percent of the market rate, from what I can tell,” said Matt Rice, head of the Children’s Issues Committee of the FSH Tenants’ Association.
The lower prices attract students with families and single students alike, causing 4-12 monthlong waiting lists, and priority for students with families.
“It is easier to get a place if you have children. There is a set of priorities for housing that begins with couples with dependents [children], couples without dependents, then single graduate students. Single undergraduates and graduate students have options of living in the Santa Ynez apartments,” Rice said.
The location, within three miles of day cares and an elementary school, may be convenient for families, but the apartments are located above a former wetland. Many residents in both Storke and West Campus apartments have had mild to dangerous problems with flooding, which generally leads to mold.
“The entire FSH area is a wetlands area that was filled 40 years ago to provide space for housing. The water table is extremely shallow and the soil is nearly saturated most of the year, so any rainwater that collects on the surface and upper foot of soil stays there most of the winter,” Rice said. “The problems with mold are endemic to all the campus housing units in the Storke and West Campus areas. The problem is aggravated by apparently poor construction, allowing moisture to get into the units from the foundation area.”
Tenants living on the bottom story of the West Campus apartments have experienced flooding, and a number of tenants from both buildings spoke of mold growing in their bathrooms on a continuous basis. A single mother of two children, who wished to remain anonymous, blamed the mold in her West Campus apartment for her son’s sickness.
“There is mold in the bathrooms because it is foggy and damp,” she said. “My son has asthma, so we have to be careful about cleanliness.”
Joan Vignocchi, a board member of the FSH Tenants’ Association, also had experiences with mold in her apartment. “It’s disgusting. I think the endemic mold in the walls is what keeps my family and I sick nine months out of the year,” she said. “Recovery time is longer, coughs linger for months, etc.”
Tenants formed the FSH Tenants’ Association last February to respond to the residents’ complaints with maintenance issues or confusion over housing rules. Vignocchi believes the group has been successful.
“Maintenance is very good here. One of our board members is working closely with them right now to improve the playgrounds. I have had few problems with anyone on a personal basis,” she said.
The association has also been successful reforming many regulations that previously constricted residents.
“There were some problems with the beautification standards. Housing went around and took notes on what people had on their patios and came out with a list. Some people were told they would be evicted if they didn’t get rid of plants,” said Misty Ellis, a married tenant living at the West Campus. “It was a really random listing because there were no set standards on what you could have on your patio or balcony.”
Other residents are unsatisfied with the housing situation.
“The airplane noise in the mornings is awful,” said Charles Atachi, a married father with one child living in the Storke apartments. “The Storke apartments are much newer and nicer looking than the West apartments. But West is about $100 cheaper.”