Faculty housing plan proposed

Daily Sundial

To help recruit and retain faculty that may be otherwise disinclined to relocate to Southern California because of the high cost of living, CSUN is proposing to build faculty and staff housing on campus, said Harold Hellenbrand, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. “(CSUN) get(s) turned down because of the cost of housing,” Hellenbrand said. The starting salary for assistant professors ranges from $48,000 to $53,000, which does not always enable them to afford housing in Los Angeles, Hellenbrand said. Donald Bleich, professor of finance and real estate, said the median price for homes in Los Angeles County is $463,450, according to December 2004 statistics. In order for faculty and staff to be able to purchase a home in the area, they would need $100,000 as a down payment, and $110,000 in annual income to qualify for a loan, Bleich said. “What we pay faculty here is generally lower than what they might get at other universities,” Bleich said. The proposed housing is part of a plan designed to increase enrollment during the next 30 years by more than 11,000 full-time students. As the campus community grows, there will be a greater demand for housing to accommodate the increased number of students and faculty. “It will make the campus more neighborly,” Hellenbrand said. The university is considering developing about 600 housing units for faculty, to aid in their recruitment, said William Jennings, chair of finance and real estate. Residents from the area have not demonstrated concern about the project, except for the possibility of creating an impact on traffic, Jennings said. “We are hoping to get feedback from them from the forum we hold (on March 1),” Jennings said. Construction of the faculty housing units is planned to take place where the north campus stadium and University Village Apartments now stand, Jennings said. The costs of demolishing the current structures and constructing the new buildings have not yet been determined. “These details will get worked out over time,” Jennings said. The university hired Valeo Companies, an Anaheim-based company, to develop a proposal for the faculty and staff housing. Mathew Disston, senior vice president of Valeo Companies, said specific plans about the proposal have not yet been well defined. Over the next few years, the company may be asked to submit a development proposal, but at this point, Valeo Companies has been hired only to make assessments and help develop a possible plan, Disston said. “The university has set an initiative exploring strategies to provide housing affordable for faculty and staff,” Disston said. “The idea is pretty innovative. Not a lot of schools have done that. At this point, it’s still just a colored blob on a map.” CSUN is moving toward the direction of building a 24-hour campus community for faculty and staff, where people can live locally, either alone or with their families, Disston said. The company has to assess the market value, as well as evaluate the site and the demand, but so far the final product is just a report, he said. According to Disston, if the proposal goes into effect, the housing may possibly be built on a 13-and-a-half-acre piece of land, which could contain between 200 and 600 household units. Units could vary from stacked flats, attached units, or detached units, none of which has been determined yet, Disston said. Affording housing in Southern California is a problem, especially when universities want to recruit professors from out of state, Disston said. “You really have to start thinking about the whole lifestyle for people, (to give an) opportunity for them to buy a more affordable unit,” Disston said. Valeo Companies has previously built housing where the cost is 15-to-20 percent below the market price, because the housing facilities were built on university land, Disston said. “I think CSUN has taken the bull by the horns to try to deal with this very complex problem,” Disston said. Jan Bell, chair of accounting and information systems, said one of the biggest problems for departments is recruiting professors from out of state, especially those who are just out of school. These professors have not accumulated enough money to afford living in Southern California, and probably have student loans to pay. Candidates for positions ask about the cost of living in Los Angeles, and often say they cannot afford it, Bell said. “I think (faculty housing) would be a great idea,” Bell said. “I’ve heard from faculty who lived in that kind of (housing). It’s made a tremendous impact on them.” CSU Fullerton has also built faculty and staff housing. Gary Del Fium, manager of property planning at Fullerton, said the school’s first faculty and staff-housing project was completed in 2002, and consisted of 86 units. “It’s limited to low-to-moderate income levels,” Del Fium said. “It’s affordable housing.” There is a waiting list of 45-to-50 families who want to move into their Buena Park community called University Gables, Del Fium said. The units at University Gables range from 1,200-to-1,500 square feet and cost somewhere in the $240,000 range, Del Fium said. According to Del Fium, the Orange County Wage Index helps control the real estate market’s appreciation flow so that housing prices for faculty and staff at Fullerton increase at a slower rate than the market price. “If wages go up 3 percent, the appreciation will be 3 percent as opposed to 20 percent,” Del Fium said. Thomas McCarron, executive director of the University Corporation, said the goal is to provide faculty and staff housing at CSUN similar to the housing at Fullerton. The idea is to make housing affordable over time at a controlled equity growth, meaning a buyer will purchase the home a price significantly lower than the market price. In return, the increase in value over time, and the ability to sell the units, will be controlled by an index. He said a lot of potential faculty members feel it is too expensive to move to Los Angeles unless they can find a solution to the problem. “We want to provide high-quality homes for both short-term and long-term (use),” said McCarron. Building new housing will create a better living situation for faculty and staff members, McCarron said. “A big part of the program is to create a housing environment that will foster collegiality that enhances the quality of life,” McCarron said. Qualifications for obtaining housing have not yet been determined.