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USAC looks to expand off-campus housing resources for students


Undergraduate Students' Association Government President Danny Siegel wants to raise awareness about high off-campus rents and improve relations between first-time student tenants and landlords. (Daily Bruin file photo)

Undergraduate Students' Association Government President Danny Siegel wants to raise awareness about high off-campus rents and improve relations between first-time student tenants and landlords. (Daily Bruin file photo)


This post was updated Nov. 15 at 10:55 p.m.

Undergraduate student government leaders are gathering data to help address problems with off-campus housing.

Undergraduate Students Association Council President Danny Siegel said his office started compiling information about rent prices and renters’ rights in the fall. He promised to advocate for lower rent prices and greater landlord accountability as a part of his platform when he was running for office in the spring.

More than half of all undergraduates live in off-campus housing, according to UCLA’s Office of Academic Planning and Budget.

Siegel’s office has researched programs at other colleges, such as UC Berkeley’s tenants union, to find effective ways to improve housing for students. The Berkeley Tenants Union organizes renters and advocates for policy in favor of tenant interests.

Brian Kohaya, director of employment in the USAC Office of the President, said the office has considered creating a similar organization at UCLA that would partner with the Westwood Neighborhood Council.

“(USAC is looking for) tangible data we can use to establish the need for a tenants union,” Kohaya said.

Kohaya said he hopes to gather data that includes rent prices in Westwood and the surrounding areas.

The Bruin reported in April that the median price for a two-bedroom apartment was almost $600 more than in Marina Del Rey.

When they finish gathering the data, the office plans to release an infographic to educate people about Westwood rent prices.

The office also plans to improve relations between students and landlords, Siegel said.

[Related: Danny Siegel’s passion for public service drives USAC candidacy]

Siegel said he thinks apartment lease agreements contain information with which most students are unfamiliar. As a part of his platform in the spring, Siegel said he planned to make Student Legal Services more available to students who want to understand their lease.

Siegel said he has had an initial conversation with Student Legal Services, but has not solidified anything.

Libby Burke, the Office of the President’s co-director of housing and security, said the office plans to publish a booklet that lists helpful tips for student tenants. The booklet would include questions prospective tenants should ask their landlords, as well as renters’ rights information.

“UCLA doesn’t do enough with preparing students to live on their own,” Burke said.

Some students said finding an apartment is difficult and that they are unsure of how to negotiate leases with property managers.

Shivanshu Gupta, a third-year economics student, said his status as an international student created problems when he leased an apartment.

Gupta said he forgot to take a copy of his lease with him during a trip home to India. He used a copy of a cashier’s check, a check drawn from a bank’s funds, to prove he leased the apartment. This made withdrawing funds more difficult. Gupta added his property manager was uncooperative in sending him a copy of the lease.

However, he felt that he understood the terms of his lease.

David Mann, a fourth-year biochemistry student, said he thinks it is easier for a student to lease an apartment if they know someone moving out of an apartment, because landlords want to rent to trustworthy tenants.

Mann added he thinks he was lucky to find an apartment for a price that he could afford.

Burke said that a tenants union, would be a long-term plan, and that the office was just getting started on other projects. Burke said the office would finish gathering rent data by the end of February 2017.

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Opinion columnist

Visakan is an Opinion columnist.


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