OPINION: Student housing insecurity

Tonie Lopez, Assistant Opinion Editor

College students attend school for many reasons. One of the most common reasons is that they want to create a better life for themselves, but it’s during this time that students need the most help and guidance.

This is very evident when it comes to basic and crucial needs — a roof over their head. Many of the students who attend CSUN quite often face some type of housing insecurity. With high rental prices, overcrowding, long waitlists for on-campus housing and a lack of resources like funding for housing, these students face a very difficult challenge.

One out of 10 CSU students face some type of housing insecurity, according to the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools. According to an article from Redfin, housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years, especially throughout California. This has caused many students in the San Fernando Valley to resort to other alternatives like couch surfing, staying temporarily with a friend, living in overcrowded conditions or even living out of one’s car.

Many other students deal with having to live so far from campus that they need to commute up to an hour just to get to school.

In The Sundial article “American Living? Too Expensive” by Steven Almeida, one student described her ordeal of finding no affordable housing in the Valley as so extreme, she ended up having a 90-mile commute from Bakersfield to the CSUN campus.

Students walk down a corridor at CSUN student housing on Sept. 20, 2022, in Northridge, Calif. (Connor Clark)

A number of students have voiced their concerns about these affordable housing issues.

“It’s so expensive,” said Sadhana Ramesh, a cinema and television major. She said that life is made so much harder for students, especially when they have enough to worry about.

Her friend and roommate, Jessica Maguire, agreed. When discussing the prices in the area for students, she called it “crazy,” and essentially acknowledged the prices in the area are just too much.

Marilyn Mendoza, a faculty counselor with CSUN’s University Counseling Services, agreed that housing is a hurdle for many students. “I think that it has been challenging for students returning to campus in many ways,” Mendoza said.

She explained that she has spoken with many students who thought they would be taking virtual classes, only to find that most of them were in person. This led to them being unprepared to search for housing, especially amid the large waiting list for CSUN’s dorms.

“This has left some students scrambling to find housing which has caused stress and anxiety,” she added. “Considering the cost of living in California, students are equally stressed about how to pay for increasing housing costs associated with going to college.”

In regard to these extreme situations, many students have argued that there should be better procedures and alternatives put into place.

“We pay for so much and get poor services,” said Candace Luther, a recent CSUN graduate. She said the cost of living for students in the area was not only an issue, but CSUN’s student housing had come with its own set of problems.

“The cost of living should be more affordable,” Luther said. “I knew of one student who could not afford student housing so she had to work and was getting below minimum wage. I felt like I had to help her with food. To raise the rent on campus student housing was pushing students away.”

Luther said she believed that on-campus housing was not for students anymore and was more about greed.

The breakdown of payments for a double apartment with a kitchen averaged out to $1003 per month during the 2021-2022 school year. Those same payments are now $1033. An increase of $30 for each payment had been imposed for the 2022-2023 school year, according to the CSUN Student Housing and Residential Life website. When asked for comment regarding affordability issues students faced, CSUN student housing did not respond.

These issues have been a hindrance to college students for quite some time here in the Valley. Some alternative forms of housing a lot of students have done is renting a room in a house for a much lower price than that of an apartment. Many have opted to stay with their parents, friends or other family members, even if they are far away. Some have even seemed to create a permanent residency in Airbnb’s, hotels, motels and hostels.

These only scratch the surface of the true problem. Recently, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new state budget that would allow billions of dollars to be funded toward creating more and better student housing structures. It certainly would be a green light for many people to live with one less stress in their lives. At this point, only time will tell.