As the 2022-23 academic year approaches, the UC Santa Barbara community continues to grapple with the housing shortage that has affected the campus community for years and has left many students houseless or struggling to find housing during the 2021-22 school year.
UCSB re-introduces temporary housing program
UCSB’s Conference & Hospitality Services is resuming the September Temporary Housing program for the first time since 2019 — a program that existed for years to provide students with permanent local housing or temporary housing before their leases begin in the fall.
“September Temporary Housing, formerly known as the Student Hotel, has existed for years,” UCSB Media Relations Manager Kiki Reyes said in a statement to the Nexus. “This program is available to UCSB students with valid PERM numbers … It provides UCSB students with a comfortable and convenient place to stay while they seek permanent housing or wait for their fall housing to begin.”
The program this year will run from Aug. 27 to Sep. 17, and the maximum number of nights a student can stay is 21. The program will host students in the Santa Rosa Residence Hall.
For students interested in the program but searching for financial assistance, the Financial Crisis Response Team can award mini-grants to cover the cost of the housing. There may also be transitional spaces that the team may allocate depending on availability.
Reyes said it is difficult to anticipate the number of potential participants in this program, as it hasn’t been run since 2019, but said the program has assisted over 100 students at a time in the past.
The Conference & Hospitality Services Team expects this program to run “for the foreseeable future,” according to Reyes.
“Temporary Housing assists students with a housing option between leases or contracts and helps those who are not able to return home during these periods of time,” Reyes said. “Students who haven’t secured housing can go visit potential housing options and speak with landlords/property management companies in person.”
Housing Justice I.V. organizes to address housing crisis
Housing Justice Isla Vista is a community-based organization working to address the housing crisis in Isla Vista. At a June town hall, they outlined community-sourced demands to UCSB representatives and local governance.
“Housing Justice I.V. is a collaborative with UCSB and I.V. community members, more specifically Eco Vista,” Housing Justice Isla Vista organizer Amy Tran said in a statement to the Nexus. “We are a community-based organization working to highlight the history of the systemic housing crisis that has plagued Isla Vista since its inception, as well as the history of community organizing and revolution that has resulted from this injustice.”
Tran spoke to the continuing threat of the housing shortage in I.V. and the need for community organization to mitigate the crisis.
“As the worsening of the housing crisis further emphasized the need for more affordable housing for the community, Housing Justice I.V. is working to create a safe space for students and community members to organize collective change and [to] heal,” Tran said.
They demand that “all students, faculty, staff, and community members in Isla Vista deserve safe and affordable housing,” and additionally state that “the current housing crisis in Isla Vista is systemic in nature and that the conditions were laid for this to happen when UCSB decided to leave Isla Vista ‘up to the free market’ while also viciously opposing attempts at city incorporation” and more, according to their website.
Rose Peterson, director of UCSB Community Housing Authority. added that Greystar Real Estate Partners will be designing, building, financing and also operating the development.
The for-sale townhomes will have resale price controls to maintain the housing community’s affordability, and the university plans to employ a tiered pricing strategy for the rental apartments to offer the units at varying levels of affordability.
During the July 26 Isla Vista Community Services District (IVCSD) meeting, President Spencer Brandt said that costs in I.V. and the greater Santa Barbara area have risen dramatically in the last few years.
“I know that our housing market right now is very challenging. What was market rate last year is now 10% higher this year. What was market rate when I was a student at UCSB is now 40% higher,” he said. “I know that one component of this project that I’d love to see is stronger controls on the affordability of those units to make sure that our workforce can afford to live here.”
Director Ethan Bertrand expressed his excitement for the project and its ability to enable UCSB staff and faculty to afford to live in the same community in which they work.
“I’m encouraged by the potential for this to make a serious impact in our workforce housing shortage and provide people with a place where they can live locally,” Bertrand said. “Additionally, I’m really excited for the potential to have more year-round residents right on the border of Isla Vista.”
Housing crisis peaks during 2021-22 school year
During Fall Quarter 2021, UCSB grappled with an unprecedented housing crisis that shocked the community as students returned for in-person instruction for the first time since March 2020. Despite university efforts to mitigate the housing crisis with hotel housing contracts and housing projects like the Ocean Road Housing Project, I.V. and the campus community faced a housing shortage that left countless students with rising rent prices and housing insecurity.
As fall quarter approached, UCSB was left with “all available spaces” in university housing filled and a waitlist of over 1,000 students who were still in search of housing. With the community push to provide housing for students amid the housing crisis, UCSB moved forward with the plan to work with hotels to temporarily shelter unhoused students in September. The cost of housing accommodation at the hotel was the same as university housing for the 10 weeks of fall quarter and, at the time, the University & Community Housing Services described the hotel solution as a temporary, emergency solution only for fall quarter.
However, the housing crisis persisted through the quarter, and during a public town hall meeting, the university announced its intent to extend hotel housing contracts for students into winter quarter.
UCSB unveils new student housing: Munger Hall
Munger Hall — an 11-story dormitory building designed by billionaire Charles Munger — is projected to house an additional 5,000 students with design input and partial funding provided by Munger.
This new project, however, quickly gained local — and eventually national — controversy over its lack of windows and compact design, voicing concerns over the lack of natural ventilation and access to the outside world, as well as the dangers that come with packing a large volume of students into a single building with two exits.
“Many of the bedrooms have windows, and many more do not,” Munger Hall architect Navy Banvard said in response to a public commentator’s question during a meeting held by UCSB’s Design Review Committee to review Munger Hall.
Protest over the building’s design came internally as well, with former Munger Hall architectural consultant Dennis McFadden resigning in protest of its construction on Oct. 24, 2021, in a letter to the Design Review Committee co-chairs.
“I was disturbed by both the process and the content of the Munger Hall design presentation,” McFadden wrote in his letter of resignation. “The basic concept of Munger Hall as a place for students to live is unsupportable from my perspective as an architect, a parent and a human being.”
McFadden addressed the concern of the density of Munger Hall in this letter, noting that this “single-block design” is meant to “hold 4,500 students with two entrances.”
“The project is essentially the student life portion of a mid-sized university campus in a box,” McFadden wrote in the letter.
This letter — as well as national media spotlighting the controversial Munger Hall — cultivated more community pushback, with hundreds of students, faculty and other UCSB community members gathering on campus on Nov. 5 to protest Munger Hall. With the protest taking place on Parent’s Weekend, the participants marched in front of the countless parents visiting the university and chanted, “Don’t send your kids here.”
Such opposition against Munger Hall did not sway the university, however, as UCSB continues to stand by the building’s design.
“The Munger Hall project and design is continuing to move forward as planned,” UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada said in a statement to the Nexus in October 2021. “We are delighted to be moving forward with this transformational project.”
As part of the design process, the university developed a mock-up of Munger Hall to showcase the building’s “design features in a way that cannot be accomplished through renderings alone,” according to Estrada. Images from inside the mock-up were leaked to the Nexus last November, and the Nexus was granted a tour of the facility in June.
UCSB is still working on Munger Hall, with little change to its design, creating a dormitory building with artificial windows, limited access to terrane-style balconies on a few floors, no dining commons and a compact design of a single-block building with two entrances. The university also revealed that Munger Hall’s construction is unlikely to meet the 2025 opening goal, which would violate the conditions of the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
The project team is currently working on an Environmental Impact Report for the project that will precede the public comment period according to Reyes.
UCSB’s plans for new faculty housing are underway
The Ocean Road Housing Project — a housing project on the border of I.V. and the university that aims to provide accommodations for UCSB’s faculty and staff — is tentatively slated to begin construction in 2023.
Originally proposed in 2007, the project reflects the university’s aim to fulfill its commitment to the LRDP targets to provide housing for staff and faculty, a community greatly affected by high housing costs in Goleta and Santa Barbara.
The project was, however, halted in 2009 amidst public outcry against its environmental impact, as it would require demolishing a row of eucalyptus trees that line the street bordering UCSB and I.V.
The project has a proposed unit mix of 360 rental apartments — 52 studios, 146 one-bedrooms, 143 two-bedrooms and 19 three-bedrooms, and 180 for-sale townhomes — 92 two-bedrooms and 88 three-bedrooms, all with two-car garages.
The project was reintroduced during a University of California Board of Regents meeting in 2020, and the Nexus filed a Public Records Act in 2021 that unveiled more information about this long-run project. Now, the project continues to aim to fulfill the LRDP.
The Ocean Road project received approval from the UC Regents in May 2022, where the environmental impact of this project was also brought onto the floor. According to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) report, it was determined that the Ocean Road project would not have significant environmental impact that had not already been addressed by the LRDP. In lieu of the eucalyptus trees, it was noted that 17 of the trees were already taken down and that the currently existing trees “were mostly planned to replace fallen trees or trees removed for safety issues.”
Peterson addressed the IVCSD Board of Directors at its July 26 meeting. Peterson provided updates on the project, addressing issues regarding affordability, parking and environmental and community impacts.
During the July IVCSD meeting, Peterson said the project is currently in the due diligence phase, during which the buyer examines the financial and physical condition of the property.
“We are in the process of drafting a series of agreements with our development partners to move this project forward,” Peterson said.
Peterson said that with the Regents’ approval, UCSB can move forward with the next phases of the project: drafting contracts and design schematics with development partner Greystar, preparing for California Coastal Commission review and beginning site studies. Construction may tentatively begin in 2023, according to Peterson.
“Our goal is to break ground, at least on the infrastructure portion, sometime late 2023 if we achieve all of the milestones and approvals we’re looking for, ” Peterson said. “We’ve got a busy year-and-a-half coming up before we ever have a shovel in the ground.”
University runs out of campus housing in April
Looking into the coming school year, the housing crisis still persists. UCSB’s University & Community Housing Services sent a mass of emails on April 1, rejecting students who applied for university housing for the 2022-23 academic year.
“At this time, we have completed our contract offers for continuing students. As in past years, we were not able to offer a contract to every continuing student who applied for campus housing. University-owned housing has historically accommodated approximately 40 percent of our total campus enrollment, while 60 percent of our students live in privately-owned accommodations in the community,” the email stated.
This left another group of students with no secure housing from the university for the upcoming academic year. To this, Shelly Leachman, the university spokesperson at the time, said that “students need to start their housing search early and be persistent with a plan.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Aug. 25, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.