Housing is housing. Even if it’s halfway across the county, right?

In a Jan. 17 vote, the Cabrillo Governing Board voted to approve the final draft of a proposed housing complex with 271 units that could house 624 students. The catch is that it would serve students from Cabrillo College and UC Santa Cruz. 

The complex, planned for construction next to Cabrillo’s softball field, would be split up into family, traditional, and apartment-style wings, and would also include a child care center. 

Despite intentions to alleviate the housing crisis, the complex leaves many students with logistical issues. Elena Bernard, a Santa Cruz local in her first semester at Cabrillo, explained some of the issues with the potential housing complex.

“Getting from Cabrillo to Santa Cruz can be tricky,” Bernard said. “Depending on the time, traffic can be really bad.” 

By car and with minimal traffic, a trip between the two schools takes between 20 to 30 minutes. For those who don’t have the luxury of personal transportation, commuting via public transit can take well over an hour. 

While the idea of new housing is welcomed, the proposed housing complex isn’t ideal for all the college students it’s meant to serve.

“If I were to live that far from campus […] I would be less likely to use resources that the school provides like libraries or in-person office hours,” said second-year UCSC student Andrew Pangelina. 

Although the approved final draft was submitted on Jan 26. to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, project planning is still in progress. 

UCSC administration predicts that this joint construction project, along with the current Kresge College Renewal project, will alleviate some of the housing pressure and accommodate the growing enrollment rate. Currently, UCSC has 19,500 students enrolled, with about 9,000 living on campus.

“UCSC is taking an immediate focus to increase housing opportunities,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor Scott Hernandez-Jason. “We see this as another step to increase housing.”

UCSC has attempted to construct new housing in the past, but has faced delays due to legal and monetary issues. The most recent attempt was the 2019 Student Housing West complex, which was delayed by a number of lawsuits before being reapproved by the Board of Regents in 2021. 

The 2021 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) states that UCSC intends to enroll over 28,000 students by 2040, and house 19,500 of them. While a joint housing complex would provide some relief, it is a far cry from the housing required for this quota. 

“[The housing complex] might help, but it is obviously not a silver bullet […] and is nowhere close to the scale needed to house all students on campus,” said Zennon Ulyate-Crow, president of the UCSC Student Housing Coalition. 

Ulyate-Crow went on to say that, while UCSC does have an obligation to provide housing for students, feasibility is another story.

“[The] tricky thing is with housing, it moves very slowly and you’re never really able to see big progress unless you are looking at decades,” Ulyate-Crow said. “The real recent progress is within the student body, not the university.” 

With no set timeline for the construction of the housing complex, students who are currently looking for affordable housing say they don’t have time to wait. 

Matt Waxman, former UCSC alumni council member and student representative for the 2005 LRDP, explained another potential reason that UCSC has not been able to properly construct housing. 

“There has always been the space and place to build housing off campus […] it’s a political question,” said Waxman.

He witnessed the slew of lawsuits, some of them from the city, that were leveled against UCSC in 2005. This resulted in the 2008 Comprehensive Settlement Agreement, which set limits and restrictions on a list of items including enrollment and housing; it also monitored potential construction of new complexes.   

According to Assistant Vice Chancellor Hernandez-Jason, as the plan currently sits, the new joint housing complex would be listed in the housing portfolio that UCSC offers to all students. 

Despite plans for new housing, second-year UCSC student Andre Mastalir faces a similar issue. It’s a good fix for future students, but not so much for students who need to find a lease soon, says Mastalir.

 “I feel like UCSC has known about the rising housing issues for many years now, I don’t know how much this [proposed housing complex] is going to help.”