Zoe Denton is an English sophomore and opinion columnist for Mustang News. The views expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
Congrats! You managed to sign a lease on a house — you just had to sell everything you own to live within a mile of campus. It’s either that, or you submit to sharing a tiny room with one measly window. Your wellbeing doesn’t require sunlight, right? At least you don’t have to live out of your car for the beginning of fall quarter, a real thing that people have to do.
San Luis Obispo’s housing market, only the fifth most expensive in the nation in 2019, promises nothing, so you better lower your expectations.
This may come as a shock to some of you, but landlords do not trust college students.
Students looking for housing have to jump through an enormous amount of hoops just to find an adequate living space while avoiding the many housing scams. Hundreds of dollars spent on application fees, hours spent on tours and filling out applications, all on top of exams and the course load of college students, many of whom have jobs just to make rent. All of this to have your chance at a house tossed away with, you guessed it, an actual coin toss.
You’ve already won half the battle if you’ve found a decent group of people to live with. (Pro-tip: you don’t have to love them, you just have to be able to tolerate them). Is putting up with dirty counters worth not having to find a whole new roommate with their own slew of weird habits? If you manage to find a group of people to live with, keep in mind that nothing is set in stone until you sign that lease.
Laura Denney is a biomedical engineering sophomore who has been looking for housing. She toured a house near campus and “it seemed like [they] were going to be offered the lease, but when [they] showed up to the second tour, there was a whole other group of girls there.”
This was shocking but Denney said she was still confident in the merits of her group. However, a few days after their final tour, they received a call from the property manager and were told the decision between the two housing groups was too difficult to make so they decided to have a coin toss for the property. Denney and her roommates lost.
Denney’s story demonstrates the pattern of unfair housing practices occurring in this college town, because she is not alone in her struggle to find housing.
I know that in real estate, location is everything. But how ethical is it to keep raising the prices of houses when landlords know students want to live as close to campus as possible? Any form of altruism has gone out the window with this housing market and it’s leaving students wondering what they are going to have to sacrifice.
Their comfort? Their convenience? Their money?
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in regards to renting houses in San Luis Obispo, “rent affordability … has trended downward after peaking in 2016.” After 2016, the average rent rose about 26%.
Considering all of this, a student at this university might hope that the administration is looking for solutions. However, the US HUD confirms that “student enrollment is expected to continue to increase during the next 3 years. Currently, there are no plans to add additional student housing.”
Cal Poly students, many of whom are already in debt simply for attending Cal Poly, cannot pay the San Luis Obispo average rent of $2,222 per month. It’s not feasible, and it leads to many pleading conversations with parents and making the choice to pick up part-time jobs.
These adults leasing to students do not care, as long as they get their money at the end of the day.
What can we do? Not get housing? Contribute to the already populous homeless community in this city? I don’t know. But I do know that we live here because we attend this university.
Finding a house is exhausting and filled with drama. Adding that emotional state to a highly competitive and increasingly expensive housing market results in some truly unfair housing practices, and leaves many Cal Poly students feeling helpless.