Mathematics professors John Dye lives in a 400-square-foot apartment with his two children in Santa Monica while he waits patiently for a condo at College Court Townhomes to become available.
At $1,665 per month, Dye said renting a 1,800-square-foot condo just a short walk from campus is extremely desirable for both price and location.
So desirable, in fact, he decided to join the 55-person wait list two years ago but said he still has no idea when he will get the chance to call a condo at College Court Townhomes home.
‘I have been on the apartment list for a few years, but never was able to figure out what position I was on it. Of course I never received a call about availability. In fact, I have never heard of anyone receiving a call about availability,’ Dye said.
While the University Corporation, who owns and manages College Court Townhomes, acknowledges there is an increasing demand for affordable housing close to campus for CSUN faculty and staff, inconsistent rules practiced by the corporation and a policy that allows a select few to skip the wait list means professors like Dye will have a long wait until they get the chance to rent one of the coveted condos.
The University Corporation is responsible for food services on campus, the bookstore, investments, endowments and real estate for faculty and staff. In 1995 they purchased 28 condos at a complex on 18411 Plummer St. and later bought another three for the sole purpose of renting to CSUN faculty and staff. Each condo has two bedrooms, a two-car garage, and the complex has a swimming pool and spa.
In 2004, The University Corporation decided that the maximum time a person could rent at College Court Townhomes was three years. But some people have been allowed to stay much longer. One mathematics professor has lived there for over five years.
University Corporation director Jane DeLorenzis explained that a few years ago they looked into selling the condos and people who lived there were given the option to potentially purchase the one they lived in. No condos were ever sold, but DeLorenzis said because they were looking into selling them they allowed people to stay for an extended period of time.’
If a professor lived there prior to 2004, they would have been given notice that they would only have three years left to rent at the complex. However some professors who lived there before 2004 still live there today.
When the mathematics professor was contacted he declined to comment.
An associate professor’s, who wished to remain anonymous, three years at College Court Townhomes will expire later this year, but was recently told that she could keep renting her apartment for another two years.
DeLorenzis explained that these two professors might have been given the option to purchase their condo a few years ago. She said other professors whose three years had expired would have to move out and join the wait list again if they wished to move back into College Court Townhomes.
While there are 36 condos in the complex, numbers 19, 21, 22, 31 and 36 are privately owned. According to trulia.com, a real estate search engine, in July 2007 condo 19 sold for $429,000.
University Corporation Real Estate Manager Linda Turner said currently the townhomes are fully occupied. Six condos are occupied by faculty, eight by administrators and 17 are occupied by staff.
‘I would estimate that if you are number 55 on the list today, it could take three years before your turn comes up,’ said Turner.
In September 2006 when Athletics Director Rick Mazzuto moved into a condo at College Court Townhomes, he was unaware that he had skipped over the 55-person wait list of CSUN faculty and staff.
The veteran administrator with 20 years experience leading NCAA Division 1 athletics, whose appointment prior to CSUN was athletics director at Longwood State University, didn’t have the time to fly back and forth from Virginia to Northridge to look for accommodation.
Former university finance and administrator official Jim Sullivan told Mazzuto he could arrange a place for him and his wife to live near campus. When the couple made the trip from Virginia to Northridge for the announcement of his position, Mazzuto’s wife viewed an apartment at College Court Townhomes and told her husband that the housing was spacious and suitable.
‘The wait list is on a first-come-first-serve basis, unless the person is a critical hire and they have a need for housing,’ said DeLorenzis.
The policy regarding the College Court Townhomes wait list, signed in 2001 by then Executive Director of the University Corporation Thomas McCarron, says that while the wait list is on a first-come-first-serve basis the university president can move a new or current faculty member to the top of the list if they believe that the persons position is of such importance that it would be in the best interest of the university to accommodate his or her housing needs.
DeLorenzis further explained that the decision to move a person to the top of the wait list is made by University Corporation Executive Director Rick Evans and members of the University Corporation cabinet who consults with CSUN president Jolene Koester.
‘We use them to recruit and retain faculty and staff,’ DeLorenzis said.
She explained that when recruiting staff from out of state, most wouldn’t take positions at CSUN because of the high cost of housing in the area.
Last year Janice Friedel was employed as a professor for CSUN’s new education doctoral program and said she would not have taken the position if the university had not offered her a condo at College Court Townhomes.’
Before coming to CSUN Friedel had worked as administrator of the Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation in Iowa for the past 30 years. She said that while it was difficult to make the move to Northridge, it would have been much harder if she had to incorporate looking for housing as well.
In a recent survey of 70 CSUN professors, 50 percent indicated they owned their own home while 15 percent said they were either on the wait list for a condo at College Court Townhomes or had found other accommodations because the wait list deterred them.
According to the report of gross pay of state employees complied by CSUN’s office of Human Resources last year, Mazzuto received a raise of almost $25,000 bringing his salary up to $175,700.
Donna Hardy, a psychology instructor, was on the wait list for a condo at College Court Townhomes for so long she gave up. Last year she earned $45,240.’
In the annual CSUN San Fernando Valley Economic Report, compiled by Dr. Daniel Blake, in 2006 renters in Northridge spent on average 40.8 percent of their income on housing. This exceeds the rent costs of Los Angeles City and County, California and the nation.
If Hardy had been able to move into a condo at College Court Townhomes it would have cost her, without utilities, 44 percent of her yearly wage. For Mazzuto however, one year’s worth of rent costs him 11 percent of his salary.
On the University Corporations faculty staff housing resource Web site, they suggest other apartment complexes not owned by the university that CSUN staff could rent in the area. However, they are up to $400 per month more expensive.
At Meridian Place on Reseda Boulevard, two bedroom apartments range from $1,850 to $2,065 per month. While they offer no discount for CSUN faculty and staff they have a ‘hero’s program’ which means a professor will get $100 off their move-in costs.
Also on Reseda Boulevard, Candlewood North apartments price their 1,030-square-foot two bedroom units from $1,772 to $1,797 per month and offer no discounts for CSUN faculty and staff.
If a CSUN faculty or staff member lived at College Court Townhomes for three years and was able to save $400 per month, their total savings would amount to $14,400, savings that could be used as a deposit for a home.
ampbell Crites of Crites Mortgage Planning Group explained that a person who earns $45,000 annually with an estimated monthly debt (student loans, car payment, credit card etc) of $500 may qualify to purchase a $200,000 home while a person earning $175,000 annually with an estimated monthly debt of $1,800 would qualify to purchase a $650,000 home.
These figures were based on interest rates posted on the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (Calstrs) Web site on April 23, 2009. All loan calculations are based on a 3 percent down payment.
Realtor Susan Jones of Pinnacle Estate Properties said the average sales price in Northridge for a two or three bedroom home is $477,860 and in the San Fernando Valley it is $432,700.
‘If you are earning $45,000 a year, you are not going to be able to buy a home in this area unless you have a sizeable deposit,’ said Jones.
While Friedel has just over two years left before she has to vacate her condo at College Court Townhomes, Mazzuto will have to find new accommodations later in the year and is planning on buying a home in the Santa Clarita or Simi Valley area.
But for Dye, despite the wait list, inconsistency of the University Corporation’s rules and the policy, which allows people to skip the wait list, he plans to continue to wait until a condo becomes available.
‘You just can’t beat the location,’ he said.