Housing headaches continue off-campus

Some students say they can’t find reliable resources and affordable housing options.

gateway apartments
The cost of a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is approximately $6,400 per person each semester at University Gateway Apartments. (Joseph Chen / Daily Trojan file photo)

Last February, Jacqui Junio, a freshman majoring in biological sciences, planned to live with her three friends during sophomore year. The four applied to University Gateway Apartments through the USC housing application, but after an error led to her application not submitting, Junio was denied housing and separated from her friends. 

Junio, like many other students, is now searching for off-campus housing, and she said the experience has been challenging.

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“Initially, I was kind of upset, because I felt that even though it’s sort of my fault that the contract didn’t go through, I should still be guaranteed housing,” Junio said.

USC guarantees housing for first- and second-year undergraduates. Without the guarantee of University housing for all students, some are struggling to find affordable and convenient off-campus housing before the 2024-25 academic year.

About two-thirds of upperclassmen live in non-University housing, according to USC Housing. There are 7,200 bed spaces on campus, but more than 20,000 undergraduate students, leaving many upperclassmen to search for a scarce number of affordable housing options surrounding the University. 

“Finding housing in general or around USC can be hard because everyone wants different things,” said Samhita Gutta, a junior majoring in business administration. “I know pricing is a big factor for college students … Affordable housing is more of an issue than actually finding a property.”

In addition to on-campus housing, USC secures 800 beds at the privately owned, off-campus University Gateway Apartments, which students can apply for through the USC Housing Renewal. According to the University Housing website, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment costs approximately $6,400 per person each semester.  

In comparison, the average price of a one-bedroom apartment near campus decreased this year by 3.3% to $1,574 per month or around $7,870 per semester.

Gutta, who plans to live in the off-campus Riviera Luxe, found her housing through Mosaic Student Communities, a property management company targeted at students.  

“When you look for off-campus housing, especially if you’re looking for houses, you realize that there are only a couple of property managers that operate most of the USC [off-campus] housing,” said Ethan Galbraith, a junior majoring in journalism.

Galbraith, who is leasing through Moxie Management, said the majority of his off-campus housing process was searching through PMC and third-party websites.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Tripalink, one of the largest PMCs in Los Angeles, has projects on 23 plots of land in the 43-block area surrounding the University.

“The most pressing issue is that these companies are taking advantage of students, are not taking care of the properties that are for these students and are charging students crazy prices,” said Katelyn Do, a junior majoring in journalism.

Do said the PMC that owns her building had entered her apartment without first giving 24 hours of notice, a violation of California civil code. Do declined to name the company that owns her building for fear of retribution. 

“[PMCs] advertise so heavily to students … and they trick you into thinking it’s the easiest option,” Do said. “But the hard part is when you actually get into these houses, and you find out that they don’t give a fuck about you or your living situation at all. They really take advantage of the students’ naïveté.”

Do found her apartment through the real estate search engine Apartments.com, but said that because of the scarcity of affordable housing, most students would have to find housing through word of mouth.

USC Housing offers Off-Campus Housing 101, an independent private housing rental listing service, which features housing options within the University’s Department of Public Safety Patrol Zone.

“USC Housing works with both undergraduate and graduate Admissions and Enrollment to share options and information to help new students with their housing searches. Housing prices in the neighborhoods around our campuses are competitive with university-owned housing,” USC wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan.

To view listings on Off-Campus Housing 101, users must first accept a disclaimer acknowledging that the University and Off-Campus 101 “cannot and do not vouch for the fairness or accuracy of information posted on the site by third parties.” 

Off-Campus Housing 101 also provides scam and fraud information, which describes how to identify and prevent common renting scams. 

the founders of Sublist
Pete Thaveesittikullarp, a senior majoring in computer science as well as business administration, founded Sublist, an online platform that connects Los Angeles sublessors with students searching for housing. (Shruti Shakthivel / Daily Trojan)

“This school is giving students an unreliable resource, and that’s just crazy,” said Pete Thaveesittikullarp, a senior majoring in computer science as well as business administration. “The school really wants kids to fight to live in campus housing.”

In December, Thaveesittikullarp founded Sublist, an online platform that connects Los Angeles sublessors with students searching for housing. To confirm that listings are safe, Sublist requires users to verify their posts using a USC email and denotes safe posts with a USC badge.

“[Sublessors] don’t seem to be able to find anybody to match into their apartments. But our thesis is that these people are not scarce,” Thaveesittikullarp said. “They’re just hidden around in all these fragmented platforms. And it’s because there is no central aggregated place where all these people finding housing are going to.”

Prim Boonyachai, a co-founder of Sublist and a junior majoring in design, said she was inspired to help start the platform by her own negative experiences trying to find housing her sophomore year. Scouring through Facebook for housing — “and there’s, like, 10,000 groups out there” — was a “tedious process and stressful,” she said, and she found herself wishing there was an alternative.

“I don’t think USC has provided too much attention to housing,” Boonyachai said. “Once you move on from freshman to sophomore [year], even though they say [housing] is guaranteed, it’s not necessarily good, quality housing that you would want to live in.”

Do said she hoped USC would invest more resources into educating students on the renting process and providing legal counseling for students being exploited.

“These companies are taking advantage of students, are not taking care of the properties and are charging students crazy prices,” Do said. “[USC] doesn’t think it’s their responsibility. But as a school, it’s your responsibility to look after the well-being of your students.”

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