A housing crisis in a college town is a difficult situation for all residents, including students balancing their studies. At UC Santa Cruz, students living off campus must face the challenge of finding housing in a city with limited rent regulations and affordable housing, while also dealing with a college system that increases enrollment without much-needed mitigation. Students are left to fend for themselves in an expensive housing market while others are forced into incredibly small spaces or converted lounges. Even those who deem themselves lucky in their housing situations often know someone struggling in their search for a decent living space. 

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of these individuals.

Camille Otillio said she’s been very lucky in all her housing situations so far as a student in Santa Cruz. But finding housing takes a majority of the school year and even so, there is no guarantee it will be at a reasonable price or affordable.

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

“Alone, [this] isn’t the worst thing in the world so long as you have a roof over your head and you have safety. That’s okay. But it definitely affects everyone’s academics and their ability to stay in school,” Otillio said.

Although Otillio is content with her housing situation, she knows of people who are feeling the burdens of the housing crisis — someone paying so much for housing they’re unsure they’ll be able to keep it for winter quarter and someone who lives in a closet.

“It’s because you can’t afford anything more in Santa Cruz,” she said.

Camille Otillio

Human biology

Fourth-year, Cowell College

Sophia lives with 14 people and pays $775 a month for half of a room in a house over a century old with constant plumbing issues and destructive neighbors. With constant electricity shortages leading to a warm refrigerator, storing food safely is no longer an option. Even though the conditions are far from ideal, Sophia feels she must deal with it.

illustrations by Lizzy Choi

“I don’t talk about this shit often, but it’s real rough some days to go to a university that does not have your best interest in mind,” Sophia said. “[The university] is basically bankrupting your family and squashes marginalized voices with its new ideas of how on-campus housing should be organized without consulting with faculty, [Transportation and Parking Services] and the original holders of this land.”


Daniel Perez has friends living in uninsulated garages and homes that have been retrofitted to house people beyond capacity. He said he’s been fortunate to have not faced any personal struggles regarding housing as a transfer student, but expressed the concerning realities for transfer students who left for field studies.

“Their major made them go for a field study and then they try to come back [and] they can’t find housing,” Perez said.

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

Some students are able to reinstate their housing guarantees, but only after a considerable effort.

Daniel Perez

Economics and mathematics

Third-year, Stevenson College

Illustration by Lizzy Choi

Many students have expressed that paying for classes and materials and doing well academically is stressful on its own. Finding housing in the third most unaffordable city in the U.S. on top of that is an even bigger challenge. In situations such as Emma’s, finding decent housing leaves no room for conflict within the household.

“Even though it started to seem like a toxic living environment, I had no choice but to stay because there wasn’t really much choice to leave,” Emma said.

She believed her only viable option was to somehow work it out despite the tangible tension with her roommates.