Food science sophomore Jena Lee spent $160 on application fees, only to be rejected by three property management companies and lose almost 20 houses to other applicants.
“We spent hundreds of dollars on housing applications, and we’ve reached out to countless leasing offices,” Lee said. “We came back with zero.”
Winter quarter is the time when many Cal Poly students start searching for housing for the following school year. Many students, like Lee, find it to be a stressful and frustrating process.
“It’s just this whole big mess trying to scramble and find somewhere to live because there’s like zero housing available,” Lee said
Property managers in San Luis Obispo typically issue lease re-signing agreements in February or early March, according to Lealah Broyles, the Property Manager of Cal Park apartments.
“When I took over Cal Park in 2017, it was actually very surprising to me that it started so early,” Broyles said. “But then I slowly started to realize housing is so limited.”
Lee and her roommates decided not to re-sign their lease and find a new house for their junior year. After looking, however, they were not able to find affordable housing and decided to stay at their current apartment complex. Because they didn’t re-sign their lease, they had to pay an application fee and move into a different unit.
Lee said that Cal Poly has an unspoken culture where students pass down houses or leases to friends and family.
“Because I don’t have as many connections, it’s a lot harder to try to find someone to pass us down their house,” Lee said.
Moreover, Jena said some Cal Poly students have the financial stability to have parents or guardians buy them houses close to campus — an option inaccessible to many Cal Poly students.
Recreation parks and tourism administration sophomore Ginger Renshaw’s budget is about $800 for a shared bedroom and bathroom. She said she expected to get more out of her living situation for the price she pays.
“To share a room with somebody for $800 is already steep as is,” Renshaw said. “The price that we all pay for housing versus what we get is kind of sad.”
Renshaw said that while she doesn’t love her current apartment, her decision to renew her lease was financially motivated. Some students like Renshaw have to compromise comfortability for affordability.
“I don’t love it here, but it’s the price I love,” Renshaw said.
Ultimately Renshaw believes that the limited, available housing drives up demand and in turn allows property owners to raise prices.
“The demand is so high, so it’s kind of like a vicious cycle,” Renshaw said.
Renshaw said that the high cost of living in San Luis Obispo signals a social phenomenon at Cal Poly.
“The cost of housing in SLO just says a general stigma about the school,” Renshaw said. “You have to afford a certain style of living just to live in SLO and live that SLO lifestyle.”
High prices and high demand have driven students to look for housing farther away from campus.
Nutrition sophomore Adrian Olfato and his roommates are pursuing a lease near Madonna Road because they couldn’t find housing closer to campus.
“It definitely wasn’t our first choice to be living by Madonna,” Olfato said. “We applied to like three houses closer and got denied by all of them.”