Graduate student Kris Anderson found a place to live last week after sleeping on friends’ couches for the first month of school. “I’d be on campus ’til 7 or 8 at night for work and school, then drive 45 [minutes] south, sleep on a couch, then wake up at 6am to get back to campus because I had work in the morning,” said Anderson. Even though Anderson has finally found his own place to live, he says it is not an ideal situation. “I’m renting a living room, so there’s basically no privacy,” he said.
At USF, only freshmen are guaranteed housing, and the rest of the student population must either add their names to lengthy waiting lists for on-campus housing or look for a place to live off-campus. Yet, looking for housing in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the country is a daunting task for some students. San Francisco’s median rent grew more than three times the national average this year, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sophomore Amy Haskour also had a rough experience trying to find housing off campus. “I don’t think it’s fair that most students feel forced to deal [with] the most competitive, most expensive rental market in the country,” Haskour said.
“It took us almost four months to find a place,” explained Almudena Phillips, a senior. Another student, junior Brandon Nakamura, said that he and his roommates started looking for a place to live this academic year as early as April.
USF has programs on campus to help students find off-campus housing, but Anderson found that the programs were not of any help to him. “I reached out to faculty members constantly before and after I started classes, but that provided no help. Then I contacted the campus housing department,” said Anderson, “They essentially sent me advice on how to make my email to landlords more appealing. It seemed like the whole thing was just copy and pasted from a template.”
Allowing for plenty of time to find housing is key, according to Jose Cuevas, Program Assistant for the Universities’ Student Housing and Residential Education (SHaRE). “Right now is a horrible time to look for housing. It usually takes about three months to find a place to rent and a good time to start looking is in November.”
Cuevas also believes that the expensive rent prices in the city are eclipsing the budgets of many students. “[Most students] think that if they’re making enough to pay rent then they’re good. They forget that they also need money for utilities and groceries,” he said.
Other students are finding difficulties with off-campus housing after they’ve already found a place. “We have a very strict landlord and the cost of water is very expensive for us,” said Leiyin Wang, a sophomore. Other students cited the commute and lack of privacy as problems.
“I would go back on campus,” Haskour said, “but the housing options are very limited and I don’t think they necessarily fit the needs of a lot of the student body.”
The Future of Housing at USF
The university welcomed its largest freshmen class this year, according to the USF census. 1,502 freshmen enrolled this year, compared to 1,148 in 2013. Because of the size of the incoming class, adjustments in housing had to be made. Seventy percent of freshmen are living in triples this year, according to SHaRE.
USF is also planning to build additional dormitories in the next five years. According to the USF Institutional Master Plan (IMP), the new dorms will be located where the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) area is now and will include a parking lot. “The project consists of 635 new bedrooms of housing to be developed on the east side of the Upper Campus,” the document states.
The building plans are a result of what the IMP describes as a housing quality that “is not competitive with many peer institutions.” In 2011, the dorms accommodated 38% of USF students, compared to 98% at Boston College and 55% at Fordham University. The new student housing would accommodate a higher percentage of students on campus and provide more housing options.
Lauren Day and Tanya Dzekon contributed to the reporting.
SHaRE offers appointments with program assistants like Jose Cuevas to help students through the process of finding off-campus housing. To make an appointment with Cuevas, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Featured image is a photo illustration