As a second-year student considering possible living options for this next school year, I find myself in the same situation as many of my fellow students: searching for an apartment. Most students seeking to live off campus have the option of finding either a university or private apartment.
Though this decision may seem simple, factors such as eligibility requirements, cost and accessibility may significantly decrease the range of options. Furthermore, students may not even be aware of these factors.
UCLA students currently lack the adequate preparation for the transition from on-campus to off-campus housing, and both administrators and student leaders must take action to ease this process.
One of the most important considerations is eligibility for various types of housing, and this begins with on-campus housing. Incoming first-year students are guaranteed three years of residence on the Hill, so their transition to off-campus housing is usually fairly smooth, because they are given more time to familiarize themselves with the school and the neighborhood.
However, the guarantee for transfer students only extends for one year. Since many students sign their apartment leases during winter quarter, transfer students are given little over a quarter to accustom to a new campus and new living situation while simultaneously searching for an apartment, and perhaps even more difficult, finding roommates for the year to come.
This accelerates the pressure of an already stressful situation and places a burden on students who are in a unique position. However, even after a few quarters, transfer and non-transfer students alike may find themselves in a living arrangement that is less than ideal because of incomplete information or planning time.
Even if a student chooses to progress directly from on-campus housing to off-campus university apartments, this transition is not guaranteed. Though university apartments possess advantages such as a streamlined application process, Resident Assistants who facilitate smoother building operations and university affiliation, the uncertainty and accompanying wait period are a few of the many reasons why students may elect to live in private apartments instead.
Other factors include location, amenities and ease of lease transfer. And cost is always a significant concern. A wide range of rent prices – even for similar apartments – in an already expensive area heightens the confusion surrounding the apartment search.
As such, a centralized database regarding private apartment options would prove extremely helpful in reducing housing transition stress. Although there are apartment search websites and Facebook pages, students still need streamlined resources to educate themselves about the types of apartments available, where these apartments are located and how to go about searching for them.
In addition, many students are unaware of what exactly they should be looking for in an apartment, such as the legal rights to which they are entitled from their landlords. Existing administrative infrastructure, such as UCLA Student Legal Services, certainly helps. Unfortunately, many students may not seek out these resources due to lack of awareness.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council has proposed possible solutions, most notably an annual Off-Campus Living Fair from the Office of the Internal Vice President. However, some form of quick reference guide remains necessary, and the Office of the President intends to meet this demand through the Feb. 1 release of an off-campus housing guide containing information regarding the types of apartments available, tenant’s rights and other relevant terminology. With this, students should feel more confident before and after they sign their leases.
Such existing initiatives could be supplemented by programs such as informational sessions for on-campus housing residents, the creation of a directory of private apartments and follow-up campaigns throughout the year to ensure landlords are upholding their end of the bargain. It is vital that students possess the resources to make informed decisions regarding housing from the beginning in order to facilitate a secure living situation for the entire year.
Housing insecurity is one of the most significant issues faced by students at UCLA, and this includes the often-stressful search for university or private apartments. Education about housing options and rights, administrative collaboration and landlord communication represent necessary avenues through which to empower students in their transition to off-campus housing.
Fieldman is a second-year English student and Press Secretary for USAC’s Office of the President. Office of the President Housing Security Directors Kiyo Hachisuka and Libby Burke also contributed to this submission.