High demand for housing leaves some in limbo

A number of rising juniors and seniors hoping to secure university housing were disappointed last week when USC Housing informed them that all spots have been filled. But for students hoping to earn spots as resident advisors, the announcement was particularly alarming.

Despite the 4 percent increase in  university-owned housing prices, the number of housing applicants rose, according to Keenan Cheung, director of USC Housing. This means more sophomores and juniors looking for housing were turned away.

Most students turned down by USC Housing still have some time left to secure non-university housing; though the process is intimidating, it is by no means impossible. The students looking for R.A. positions, however, are stuck. They cannot sign a non-university housing lease because of the chance that they will be given the R.A. position and will be living in the dorms, but less than half of them will actually get the position.

According to Elizabeth Peterson, assistant director for staff development and diversity, final R.A. decisions are announced in April. Applicants are instructed to apply for university housing as part of the general lottery in February to secure a spot. If chosen, they will be reimbursed for housing and moved into an R.A. room.

This process, however, does not work for students like Caitlin Finnigan, a sophomore majoring in history and an R.A. hopeful who did not secure housing through the lottery.

Finnigan said she is frustrated with the housing process.

“If UCLA can guarantee university housing for all four years for all undergraduates and they have more students than we do, USC should be able to guarantee housing for all four years,” she said.

USC only recently began guaranteeing housing for sophomores, a move  seen as a huge victory. The university has constantly been working to improve the housing issue, but Cheung acknowledged that it can create problems for R.A. applicants and others.

“It’s always, unfortunately, the juniors and seniors that have a rough time getting university housing,” Cheung said.

Kara Lemma, residential coordinator for Birnkrant Residential College, said it would be nearly impossible to coordinate the R.A. selection process with the housing process.

“It would be really difficult for us to speed up the process,” she said. “I suppose the only thing they could really consider doing is teach EDCO in the fall, but that doesn’t give as many people the opportunity to become R.A.s and we don’t have the same kind of pool. It’s tough, it really is tough.”

Lemma said she thinks USC Housing and the Office for Residential Education need to find a solution.

“We probably need to put our heads together to figure out a plan to at least guarantee housing for R.A. applicants,” Lemma said. “We could probably step that up a lot so that they are not stuck trying to scramble for housing in April. By then, all the spots around campus in privately-owned housing are gone.”

Lemma said applicants who don’t get USC Housing are stuck in a bad situation, adding that if students are unhappy with their housing it can affect their college experience.

“It’s incredibly difficult to be put on the waitlist and cross your fingers that you get something,” she said. “My concern with this whole thing is that these are students we’re talking about. If you don’t have stable living conditions, it’s extremely difficult to do really well in school.”

Housing has been a factor for applicants in previous years, according to second-year R.A. Michael Neagoe, a junior majoring in business administration.

“Anytime you apply to be an R.A. you have to take that into consideration,” Neagoe said. “There’s a time you’ll be unsure about housing. What you can do is apply for housing too or work it out with friends.”

For students not involved in the residential advisor program, university housing is an easier and more affordable alternative to searching for private housing — if it is available when their lottery time rolls around.

“It’s stressful to look for privately-owned housing around campus,” said Lindsay Thomson, a sophomore majoring in business administration.

Thomson, who secured a spot for the fall of her junior year, said she thinks it is fair that USC can’t guarantee housing.

“It’s pretty reasonable,” she said. “The campus isn’t big enough to accommodate everyone. Two years is pretty good.”

The university housing capacity is 6,800 beds, both on-campus and off-campus, which is not enough for the approximately 8,000 applicants, according to Cheung.

The university has fixed housing for a certain number of graduate students and families, while juniors and seniors are able to select from the remaining 500 to 800 spaces before USC housing runs out, he said.

5 replies
  1. Suzanne
    Suzanne says:

    This housing problem is one area that USC has really dropped the ball and let students and families down. Places not owned by USC may be cheaper, (are they really when utilties etc. are extras?) but seriously, many are HORRIBLE. Wrought iron bars and fences the height of the apartment complexes are not comforting since that pretty much means UGLY and a HIGH CRIME AREA. Smaller houses not totally fenced in, vulnerable to break ins in a dicey area at best. USC’s recent purchase of the little building where the restaurant is and taking over the rooms upstairs, making them USC housing is a joke. HOW MANY does that fit? Please! Gateway beat USC to the punch. Nice but expensive for some. Where the heck was USC? If that is their land why couldn’t they build there? Why are they waiting? Did all their money go to purchasing a hospital instead? WHY??? It is just not fair to students or families. It is crazy, chaotic and inexcusable that a school like USC is so behind and puts everyone through this ridiculous angst ridden lottery system. If it were some kind of utopian perfect neighborhood free from crime and safe to walk in and live in, MAYBE it would be accetable, but sadly, it is not. When will USC wake up and do something about this huge problem? For the tuition they get from us, at least they can create enough housing. . Geez…

    • local resident
      local resident says:

      I guess all those young kids and families that want to live in affordable, healthy housing and want to also be safe by living in crime free areas don’t matter too much since they don’t pay tuition.

      Students are and have been gentrifying the local neighborhoods north of campus for generations. Although I can not blame students for lack of housing, I can blame them, along with many landlords and USC for participating in discriminatory, and sometimes outright racist, behavior and actions towards the local community.

      USC – University of South Central

      • Outsider
        Outsider says:

        Since you’re a LOCAL RESIDENT and you call USC-University of South Central, I guess you’re proud to live in this deplorable part of Los Angeles. When you try to make your rants sound all intelligent, be aware of how you demean your own neighborhood. What is “healthy housing?” And what denotes “generations?” years, decades, what?

        You made yourself look dumb.

  2. SL
    SL says:

    The housing situation at USC is abysmal and a source of great stress for students and parents alike. As a parent, I seem to be unique among my peers in having a child go to a school where off-campus housing is even more expensive than on-campus housing. That is not the case in most locales, and it is a direct result of the university’s insufficient attention to its housing shortage.

    The time it takes each year for the student to solve his or her housing problems for the coming term, and the anxiety that goes with it, completely detracts from his or her learning and from his or her satisfaction with the entire university experience. Issues of what to do during the summer, during semesters abroad, and when one’s housemate suddenly drops out, and all the hassles — not to mention the potential for legal troubles — involved in subletting during these times only compound the problem.

    The university must do more to provide a sense of security and stability by significantly increasing the number of beds it provides, even if it needs be the one signing the leases for much of the privately owned housing in the area. When that still falls short of demand, it must do more to help students search for privately owned housing and do more to actively facilitate the search for sublets.

    Students should not be spending so much of their time and energies dealing with the problem of where to live next year; they should be focused on their studies and on contributing to all the curricular and extracurricular activities that make USC so special. The university must do more. We’re certainly paying them enough.

    • Jim Robinson
      Jim Robinson says:

      The search for housing, on or off campus, can indeed be stressful. But “SL” isn’t entirely correct in stating that off-campus housing is more expensive than on-campus. Of course one can find expensive housing in any city, but there are also many privately owned, all-student houses within walking distance of USC where a large, private room costs less than a bed in a shared room on campus.

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