Cuesta College biology sophomore Emma Kurwei begins her mornings with the sun shining down on her through a tinted pink window as she awakens on a living room couch. Then on her way to the kitchen, she steps over her suitcase and school supplies.
Kurwei found herself in a situation that some Cal Poly and Cuesta College students know all too well. She lives on a couch in her friend’s house as she could not secure affordable housing with her intended group of roommates.
“Housing is one of the most stressful things I’ve been through. There’s so little room available and it’s all so expensive. College tuition is expensive enough as it is,” Kurwei said.
Housing, especially anything close to the Cal Poly campus, can cost students more than $1,000 per month if they want to have their own room. The apartments located at 1144 Walnut St. are a prime example of this. Total rent for a two-bedroom and two-and-a-half-bathroom apartment is $2,600, $1,300 a room. Many students do not have the luxury of getting their own room due to the price.
Kurwei lived in a similar apartment last year and said, “It’s insane how so many apartments are advertised for four people when they’re clearly designed for two,” she said. “You just don’t have the space to be comfortable, but that’s what you have to put up with if you want a $500 or $600 rent.”
Houses, due to generally having more space and rooms, are more varied in cost than apartments. Residents of a house on Slack Street gave details of their rent but did not want their address to be disclosed. The house they live in has room for five tenants to each have their own room at $672 a month.
Repurposing rooms can help lower rent, local landlord Mark Schroeder said.
“It’s incredible how many rooms have been converted into bedrooms in houses near Poly,” Schroeder said. “I’ve seen some pretty sketchy setups in houses that I have almost bought. No college student deserves to live in an old laundry room.”
Schroeder went on to describe his views on local housing prices.
“Prices are high for everyone looking to rent, and that puts me in a hard situation,” Schroeder said. “Every year, the price to buy a house seems to rise, so when you do buy a home to rent out you have to provide more bedrooms and raise the rent so it’s easier to offset the purchase cost. I wish I didn’t have to charge as much as I did, but ultimately I have to come out ahead in this business.”
Landlords know how important it is for students to find housing in close proximity to campus, and that there is a shortage of housing, Schroeder said.
“I try to keep the homes that I own in a pretty good condition,” Schroeder said. “I know some other landlords in the area that just let their houses close to Poly turn into dumps. They wouldn’t let that happen if they were renting to 40-year-olds near downtown, so I think it’s pretty unfair how some people expect college students to be happy with sub-standard housing quality.”
Environmental management and protection junior Brian Stewart lived in a local apartment complex in 2013 when it was managed by a previous landlord. The landlord neglected many of her responsibilities, Stewart said.
“There are creepy messages painted all over the property and she filled in the pool with cement,” Stewart said. “I never bothered trying to get anything fixed from her because she would drain your security deposit for anything she could.”
Under that management, tenants like Stewart rarely saw their security deposit when they moved out, and Stewart said townhomes were “rarely ready to move into,” even though the landlord charged a small amount for a cleaning fee.
Those townhomes are now under the management of Farrell Smyth Real Estate Company. The current price of a townhome per month is $2,400 or $1,200 per bedroom.
Similar complexes close to campus, regardless of their quality, have consistently seen full occupancy year after year. Many students, including electrical engineering junior Brad Geldof, think this is a result of increased enrolment at Cal Poly.
“First of all, Cal Poly wants more students so they admitted more students these past few years. With more students comes a greater demand for housing,” Geldof said. “PCV (Poly Canyon Village) can only hold so many people so the only other option as an upperclassman is to live off campus. And with the Grand Avenue parking lot closed there’s a bigger pressure to live close to campus since it’s harder to live farther away and park
Ultimately, demand for housing near campus is incredibly high at Cal Poly; since supply is so limited, rent prices stay consistently high.