Many UC Santa Cruz students don't have a place to live; school asks local residents for help

It’s a common problem plaguing Bay Area communities – the lack of affordable housing. Now it appears this worsening condition is spreading and infecting other areas, such as college campuses. 

The start of classes is still a month away for University of California, Santa Cruz students, and already many face an important test: Trying to find a place to live.

“Everybody knows about it. It’s hard to find a studio under two grand right now,” said Natalya Jackson, a graduate student working on her Ph.D. in mathematics.

School officials say approximately half of the 18,000 students live on-campus. But available dorm rooms have dwindled, creating a shortage that’s grown more acute in recent years. 

This week, the school’s housing services director penned a letter about the campus housing crisis, saying, “The need is real and it is urgent,” and asking faculty and staffers to help. 

“Offering a room in your home to a student who has not been able to find housing for the school year would be a tremendous support to their success at UCSC.” School officials say a lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area is forcing workers to make longer commutes and taking inventory away from students.

“We’ve seen more influence from Silicon Valley as people are priced out of that market, they come to Santa Cruz to be somewhere affordable they can live,” said Scott Hernandez-Jason, a U.C. Santa Cruz spokesman.

Some staffers say they already rent out spare rooms to students.

“For the last seven years we’ve rented to a student,” said Scott Lupo, the Physical & Biological Science development assistant. He says it’s become common for faculty and staff to rent out rooms.

Some students are dubious extending a needy hand to faculty and staff will solve the problem in the short-term.

“They want staff and faculty who are already struggling in this housing market to do the job of what they’re not willing to do, which is find an actual solution,” said Jackson.

School officials say there’s a plan is in the works to build approximately 3,100 additional housing units on campus. However, they’re only in the environmental impact stage. Groundbreaking is far off. Completion, even farther. So, the school buried in the trees will start its fall quarter with a glaring and growing problem.

“I was homeless for about four months with my kids because the housing shortage here is just ridiculous,” said Jackson, who admitted she lived on friend’s couches to get by. She’s part of a growing list of students, chasing degrees while searching for a decent place to live    .