[media-credit name=”Natalie O” align=”aligncenter” width=”250″][/media-credit]They roar like wildfire through the residence halls, they have Isla Vista residents abuzz, they have property providers scrambling, and they have the Community Housing Office scratching their heads. What are “they,” you ask? “They” are the rumors about the necessity of find housing in Isla Vista so soon!

Students! Take a breather. Come on. Breathe with me. Innnnnn… Outtttt… Okay, now that you are calm, oxygenated and no longer hyperventilating, let’s go over some housing tips. Rushing into signing a lease before you’ve done your “housing homework” can lead to problems later on. Here are some dos and don’ts about choosing where to live, picking roommates, finding a place to rent and signing a lease:

DO attend housing programs. They range from presentations in the residence halls in early January, tours, put on by the RHA, of Manzanita and San Rafael in early January to CHO renter education programs in the UCen from mid to late January to learn about all of your options. Everyone is welcome!

DON’T let peer pressure determine your housing decisions. If you want to live in the university-owned residence halls, do it (on Nov. 21 they will start accepting contracts for the halls for all continuing students!). If you have reservations about living with someone because you don’t know them well or you know that you won’t be compatible as roommates, say “no thanks” before you get stuck in a contract with them. It may be awkward to say this now, but trust me; it will be much more awkward and painful later.

DO determine your budget ahead of time so that you don’t sign a lease for a rental that you later realize you can’t afford. If you cannot afford a particular place, but your group is pushing you to sign the lease, find the strength to tell them the truth. Either help find a more affordable alternative or find another group. Having a part-time job in college is great, but not if you have to work so hard to pay the rent that you have no time to study, socialize, etc. For more information about your money and UCSB, check out www.sa.ucsb.edu/moneymatters.

DON’T think that Isla Vista is the only place for students to live. University-owned residence halls and apartments are great options. If you are a current freshman living in the halls, and choose to do so again next school year, you have priority for a spot in the very affordable university apartments for your junior and senior years. Goleta and Santa Barbara are also places to keep in mind. Although there might be a slightly longer commute (but, hey, the bus is free and there are great bike paths!) to campus from Goleta or Santa Barbara, rental prices tend to be much more reasonable than in I.V. (think: your own bedroom!) and rentals tend to be in better shape (less turnover). If you are interested in renting outside of I.V., keep in mind that you only need to look about 30-45 days before you want to move.

DO make sure that you will be compatible with your potential roommates by asking each other questions about preferences and expectations regarding cleanliness, guests, parties, studying, sleeping and anything else that you know is important to you. We have more questions available in our office. Keep in mind that a best friend does not always make the best roommate!

DON’T sign a contract you don’t understand. Leases contain a lot of difficult language and by signing on the dotted line, you are agreeing to everything included in the lease.

Do recognize that there is not a housing shortage in Isla Vista — not even close! You can even wait until summer to find a great place in Isla Vista (and sometimes waiting allows for prices to drop!).

Take this time to ace your finals, enjoy the holidays, get to know potential roomies, and chat with those close to you about what housing choices seem best for you. Have questions? Contact CHO: (805) 893-4371.

Maya Salmon is the program coordinator at UCSB’s Community Housing Office.