When I first heard about UCSB’s plan to expand campus housing for graduate students, I thought it to be a positive step forward for our community. Then I looked at the numbers for the San Clemente Villages and quickly became disappointed with the new housing option. Even though the San Clemente expansion will provide new, furnished apartments for graduate students, I found them to be an economically unviable option for graduate students. Additionally, they are extremely overpriced for any housing market.
San Clemente Villages offers two floor plans for graduate students. The four bedroom apartments cost $759 per month per person and have approximately 1,228 square feet of space, and the two bedroom apartments cost $867 per month per person for a 702 square foot floor plan. Mind you, though, this amount includes utilities and wireless Internet.
The general consensus is that one should not pay more than 30 percent of one’s gross income for housing – the most liberal estimate that I’ve found is 40 percent. Most graduate students rely upon TAships for their income, and presuming that you are lucky enough to have a 50 percent TAship, this means that your gross monthly income is $1,821.22. At the 30 percent rate for housing, this means you should be spending no more than $546.37 per month on housing; at the 40 percent rate, this figure increases to $728.49. Thus, no graduate student living on a TAship alone could afford to live in San Clemente.
But that is not the most out of line statistic about San Clemente Village. The most common metric used to evaluate rental space is the price per square foot per annum. According to Forbes magazine, the national average price per square foot per annum was $14.53 for the second quarter of 2005. If you assume an extremely generous increase in rental price of 10 percent a year, this would yield a national average of $19.34. After a quick calculation, I found that the two bedroom units run $29.64 per square foot, and the four bedroom units were $29.67 per square foot. Both of these exceed the national average by over 53 percent! But hey, we live in Santa Barbara, and I guess that’s the price we pay to live in such a wonderful place. Just for comparison, the most expensive place to rent according to Forbes is New York City where the average price for high-end apartments was $27.84 per square foot in 2006.
I’m not trying to be greedy here and demand that the university give us housing for practically nothing… I’m just asking them to provide an economically viable option.