When USC Village opened its gates in Fall 2017, it was positioned to be the housing solution the University needed to house more of its students. With the promise of new accommodations that can hold up to 3,000 new students, according to a University press release, many anticipated a decline in the consistent demand for on-campus housing.
However, the demand only seemed to grow. The annual USC General Housing Lottery for the 2018-19 school year, which opened on Feb. 12, reached full capacity only hours later, leaving unsuspecting students frustrated and scrambling to find off-campus housing.
Emily Yamanaka, a sophomore majoring in economics, linguistics and East Asian languages and cultures, said she felt blindsided by the lottery’s early closing.
“If they were already anticipating such a shortage from the very beginning, they should have told us,” Yamanaka said. “At least that type of understanding is something they should do, or at least put a cap on how many students from each grade can enter the lottery.”
Students who hoped to live in any of USC Housing’s properties for the 2018-2019 school year were required to pay a $55 application fee by Jan. 21 to enter the housing lottery, which was scheduled for Feb. 12 - 22. Those who did not get spaces in the general lottery were given the option to sign up for a waitlist between Feb. 26 and March 7.
“[USC Housing Renewal’s] categories take into consideration the type of housing that participants are looking for, as well as their current assignments and class standing,” its website reads. “Students who will be sopohmores next year are guaranteed a space, as long as they comply with UHR procedures and deadlines.”
Yamanaka’s lottery time was on the evening of the first day for lotteries, which she assumed would give her a fair chance of securing her preferred accommodations for next year — a four-person apartment in Cardinal Gardens, which has become a common choice for upperclassmen.
However, because the lottery had reached maxiumum capacity and closed by the time Yamanaka could choose a space, she decided to forgo the waitlist and instead outsource her housing to Tuscany Apartments, a non-USC housing option located on the opposite cornder of campus as Cardinal Gardens.
“It’s not a whole lot of money, but I think out of fairness, [USC] should give us a refund,” Yamanaka said of the $55 lottery entry fee. “I guess the problem I have is transparency. We weren’t notified and didn’t know what to expect, we didn’t know the lottery would be so hectic this year.”
Though the fee is non-refundable, Senior Associate Director of USC Housing Chris Ponsiglione said that students who pay it are generally able to find accomodations within USC Housing.
“Traditionally we have eventually been able to offer a spot in USC Housing to everyone who signs up for the waitlist if they are unable to make a selection during the renewal lottery period,” Ponsiglione said in an email to the Daily Trojan.
Kimberly Salguero, a sophomore majoring in sociology, had better luck than Yamanaka. Though she was assigned the last lottery day and did not immediately receive an accommodation within USC Housing, Salguero decided to join its waitlist on Feb. 26. Weeks later, she eventually received an assignment to a former fraternity house on the Row.
“At this point, I’m just trying to think if this is the best option,” Salguero said. “[USC Housing] told me it has a residential assistant, the restroom situation is the same, it’s communal. I did get a roommate, but I do not know who my roommate is, so it’s a little frustrating just because I wasn’t expecting this.” Salguero and her preferred roommate, who decided to live off-campus next year, were hoping to live in USC Village or the Annenberg House on Adams Street — the only two places that offer apartments with single rooms.
“I feel like just because a lot of students are complaining and a lot of people are having problems, USC Housing should take initiative and hear us out,” she said. “We are paying for this, so we should be able to pay for what we want and be able to live where we want to live.
Ponsiglione said that students looking for more information on the housing process can visit the USC Housing website.
Unlike Salguero and Yamanaka, Lee Fisher, a freshman majoring in political science, said she was frustrated to find the remaining options within USC Housing were too expensive by the time her lottery time went live. USC Housing prices can vary by location and size, for example, a two-person four-bathroom apartment at the Annenberg House is priced at $4,310 per semester while the same space in the USC Village is $5,170 per semester.
“Basically, my roommate and the other girl we were living with didn’t want to pay more than what they were paying [to live in Marks Tower] this year, because they cannot,” Fisher said. “So we couldn’t find anything that was realistic for us — that’s how the cookie crumbled.” Fisher had planned to live in a six-person apartment at USC Village. However, conflicting budgets eventually led to a disbanding of the group, leading Fisher to sign her first lease for a duplex on 37th Street, several blocks away from where she had originally hoped to live.
“We put a lot of thought into compiling a housing group and thinking about where we wanted to live, because we thought that was the thing to do,” Fisher said. “But at the end, [the lottery system] just created another obstacle for us.”
Similarly, Yamanaka said preparing to live off-campus next year has caused some unexpected stress.
“Dealing with the lease, you have a lot of paperwork, and you have to get your parents involved too, since they have to [co]sign,” Yamanaka said. “As an international student, my parents aren’t very aware of whatever regulations there are here. They don’t speak English either, so it’s more work on me and I have to figure out a lot more things.”
Valerie Burgess contributed to this report.