Going from the comfort of UC Santa Cruz’s dorms and apartments to the mystery of Santa Cruz’s housing world can make anyone nervous. However, knowing what to expect from the housing hunt, the rental process and settling down can make the transition smoother.


Things to Know About Santa Cruz

The cost of living is the amount of money needed to sustain a living, which includes basic expenses such as housing, food, healthcare and taxes. Santa Cruz’s cost of living is approximately 33.8 percent above the national average, according to Forbes.

The cost of attendance for a UCSC student may differ by thousands of dollars depending on their financial aid package and the housing choice they make— you can either opt for on-campus housing at an average of $14,408, or off-campus housing at an average of $10,351. According to Aprí Medina, the Associate Director of the Financial  Aid and Scholarship Office, the average off-campus rent is $762.88. Consequently, living off campus can offer substantial savings.


Financial Aid

Before immersing yourself in the housing hunt, know your budget. Many students rely solely on financial aid to cover their cost of living, so it’s imperative to know how your financial aid changes from on-campus to off-campus living. Through its cost of attendance survey, UCSC averages the cost of  expenditures like housing, books and transportation for both off-campus and on-campus students, and adjusts a student’s aid accordingly.

With the existing gap between the average of $14,408 for a double in an on-campus dorm and $10,351 for off-campus living for a nine-month period, aid fluctuates to cover each students’ costs. While off-campus students would be losing cleaning services and covered utilities, they wouldn’t be losing their financial aid. However, since living off campus is typically cheaper, you should expect a decrease in your grants and an increase in your loans. Regardless of any decrease, UCSC attempts to provide aid to students cover all of their costs.


Places to Look for Housing

Finding the right place to live can sometimes seem daunting, but there are plenty of resources available to students. UCSC Community Rentals provides students with rental resources that allow you to search by apartment complex, map or property manager. If the UCSC Community Rentals doesn’t have any housing that interests you, Craigslist, Apartments.com, Trulia.com and Padmapper.com are also places that regularly post rentals.


What You Need to Rent

Once you find promising housing, it’s important to make a good impression on your potential landlord. You can start by preparing for the first impression by having these things ready: rental applications, cosigners and a security deposit.

The rental application — which usually involves a non-refundable application fee — requires information like previous addresses, past employers and a source of income. The rental application not only allows the landlord to know more about you, but it also gives them the permission to run a credit check to see if you’re fit to rent the apartment. Since most college students have not established credit, a cosigner is often needed.

A cosigner is a third-party who becomes responsible for any missed rent payments. A cosigner is needed as insurance when you don’t meet certain requirements, such as credit score or income level. Cosigners can be family or friends with a strong credit history. Cosigners must fill out forms that guarantee they will pay any money that you don’t pay. These forms can be found at the UCSC Community Rentals website.


Securing the Housing

After your application has been accepted and the landlord is ready to rent you an apartment, you will usually be required to provide a security deposit and the first month’s rent. A security deposit is the way the landlord protects themselves against any violations of the rental agreement. The security deposit is used when there are damages to the apartment, you miss a rent payment or keys need to be replaced. Usually, the security deposit is two times the rent, and it is returned at the end of the rental agreement if the apartment is left undamaged.


Once You’ve Moved In

When you have rented an apartment and you’re ready to move in, it’s important to remember that you set up your Internet, cable and electricity as well as your water, garbage and sewage, if required by your landlord. Each apartment complex and house differ in terms of what utilities you’re responsible for paying, but below are the numbers and average prices you could be paying.

AT&T, (831) 457-8255 / $79.99 for cable and high-speed Internet per month

Offers telephone and Internet service

– Comcast, (831) 204-9349 / $59.99 for digital starter cable and Internet per month

Offers cable TV, Internet service and budget packages

Gas and Electricity (PG&E), (800) 743-5000 / $46.42 for electricity per month and $46.18 for gas per month

Refundable deposit or cosigner who is already a customer

-City of Santa Cruz: Water, Garbage & Sewer, (831) 420-5220

Water $1.57 per 100 cubic feet (748 gallons): The average 10-minute shower takes 40 gallons (About 19 ten-minute showers)

Garbage $20.20 per month for a 20 gallon cart

Sewage $40.50 per month

Offers water, sewer, garbage collection and curbside recycling services


As California faces a serious water shortage, the City of Santa Cruz has placed restrictions on its residents’ water usage. Accordingly, the Water Department encourages students–regardless of their housing situation–to conserve water by following a few water-saving tips.


Know any other tips for first time renters? Add it in the comments below!