Over the past few years USC has vastly improved in accommodating more students in on-campus housing. Once students are inevitably shooed off-campus, however, they continue to be plagued by unreliable landlords.
USC currently only guarantees undergraduates two years of on-campus housing. Every year, an average of 800 students who apply for campus housing are denied. These displaced students, and the thousands who didn’t even bother reapplying for on-campus housing, are forced to search off campus for accommodation.
Clearly, availability is a problem. The university’s ambitious Master Plan is one way in which USC hopes to resolve the issue; the plan aims to provide the North University Park campus with 7,600 more beds. Though this is an impressive number, officials don’t plan on breaking ground until 2010, at the earliest.
In the interim, students turn to local landlords for housing options. Though there are many reputable landlords off-campus, several leasing companies have prompted criticism from students for subpar service. First Choice Housing, one such provider near USC, has been the target of complaints about poor customer service. Many students will also remember the notoriously ill-served Conquest Student Housing, many of whose buildings were ceded to USC last year when Westar Associates purchased them.
If USC has the power to intervene in off-campus housing, why don’t they do so more often?
In fact, there is little USC can legally do to mediate between students and landlords. Instead, the university is in the process of developing a program of endorsing certain off-campus complexes through a process of accreditation. The program, which will not launch until the fall of 2010, is a necessary addition to the student housing search.
USC cannot legally intervene for its beleaguered students; the next best thing it can do is try to hold non-university housing companies accountable.
It is in both the university’s and the students’ best interests to introduce this program as expeditiously as possible. It is a commendable effort in policing the off-campus housing market, and we can only hope it becomes a useful tool in the housing search. Ultimately, it is the university’s task to secure safe and affordable housing options for its students, on- and off-campus.