University & Community Housing Services hosted its Rental Housing Fair on Nov. 3, at Storke Plaza ahead of the annual Parents & Family Weekend held on campus.
The quarterly fair aims to give Isla Vista property management companies a “friendly way of interacting with parents and students” before students begin signing leases in I.V., University & Community Housing Services (UCHS) Housing Systems Analyst Jessie Long said.
There were 20 booths at the fair, with some manned by representatives from various UC Santa Barbara educational departments and property management companies.
“[We saw] a lot of parents coming through, asking all the various questions and wondering why their kids are panicked about housing already in November,” realtor and KAMAP Property Management representative Paul Warkentin said.
I.V. residents have historically faced a housing shortage, with students grappling with high rental prices and housing insecurity, sparking local organizing, discussions and projects around housing in the college town. This housing crisis has reached a spike in recent years, with students facing a shortage on an unprecedented scale in 2021 and UCHS sending a mass of denial emails to student applicants for university housing in 2022.
Representing a mix of properties throughout I.V., Warkentin said he believes the annual “panic” to secure housing in I.V. should only ensue for oceanside housing.
“We don’t rent out until April or May so I think the panic is usually a little more exaggerated,” Warkentin said. “If you want a house on Del Playa [Drive] then, yes, you do need to panic slightly. But, generally speaking, it’s a little bit artificial and inflated, I think, because we have a lot of units and as do a lot of other people.”
Playa Life I.V. representative Brandon Doherty echoed this sentiment, saying there are allegedly “vacancy” issues with housing demand in I.V.
“There is a lot more demand than there is supply,” Doherty said. “But we’re actually in a negative vacancy market, which is good for us.”
Long said that this fair may have seen the best turnout yet, noting the number of parents and students who engaged with the fair.
“This is the second year where we’ve actually had rental fairs during the parent weekends,” Long said. “The first one, last year, was an amazing success because we had so many parents with their students coming and this year was the same, probably the best turnout we have at the rental fairs is this one.”
Long said facilitating on-campus rental housing fairs is important, emphasizing that it brings transparency to the I.V. housing process.
“It shows a partnership and willingness of management companies to work with our office and continue to have those connections with UCSB and not just being kind of an invisible management company that you don’t really know about,” Long said.
As for the overall housing situation for the next school year, Long said there may be more availability in housing options in I.V. due to lower enrollment numbers at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC).
“This year, it seems like we still have housing within UCSB housing,” Long said. “I’ve heard that there’s still housing in Isla Vista. One of the factors that I’ve been told is that the numbers of attendees or enrollment at [SBCC] was a little bit lower, so that opened up some more spaces in Isla Vista.”
I.V. and Santa Barbara property management company St. George & Associates Leasing & Property Coordinator Annabelle Tribble concurred with Long’s sentiment.
“Right now, there seems like there is enough housing going into the new year,” Tribble said. “I have heard that there’s been vacancies, even at the UCSB [properties] and some of their dorms, and also other property management companies. So, I don’t think that there’s a shortage that would be concerning right now.”
Richard Weston, a UCSB parent, described his experience in finding housing for his son, a second-year student, for next year as “challenging.”
“It’s really hard because he had to get one in the summer and it was worse than getting a mortgage,” Weston said. “I had to give my income tax to the people, statement of assets and send them copies of brokerage accounts. It’s insane how you have to do things here.”
However, Weston said the fair helped clear some confusion about housing.
“I think they’re very helpful to give people an idea of what’s available in pricing so that they’re not totally shocked when their kids have to go off campus and try to find something,” Weston said.
Communicating details about applying for housing in person with potential clients is easier for realtors too, Doherty said.
“It’s a lot easier when you communicate with people in person,” Doherty said. “They can actually get the questions straight to you and you can give them straight answers. And a lot of people don’t like coming into the office or going over the phone or text, so I think it’s a great opportunity here.”
Doherty recommended that students secure the housing they want by showing up in person to property management offices as well as future rental fairs this year.
The next virtual housing information meeting will be held on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. over Zoom, and the next in-person fairs are slated for Jan. 24, Feb. 8, Feb. 15, March 13 and April 18.
“If students have any questions about housing, always feel free to contact our office,” Long said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s UCSB housing or housing in Isla Vista. We do a lot of direct connects between students and management companies, we’ll go over lease agreements if people have questions about that or help with security deposit disputes or management company disputes — anything that comes up in your housing process.”
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Nov 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.