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UC Santa Barbara facing lawsuits over lack of student housing options

Posted at 6:35 PM, Apr 13, 2023

As local leaders in Santa Barbara County continue working to address local housing needs, lawsuits have been filed against UC Santa Barbara regarding their alleged lack of student housing options.

As part of the university's Long Range Development Plan, the school set out to construct 5,000 new student housing units and nearly 2,000 new residential units for faculty and staff by 2025.

However, Santa Barbara County District 3 Supervisor Joan Hartmann tells KSBY that UCSB has fallen well short of those goals, accelerating the housing crisis on the South Coast.

"They were supposed to have a strategy that was synchronized with the growth, and instead they have grown and students have gone out into the community into Isla Vista, the unincorporated county, into Goleta, into Santa Barbara," Hartmann said.

Since the release of the university's development plan, Hartmann says only 1,500 new student beds and less than 200 new faculty housing units have been completed, leaving many UCSB students scrambling to find housing on their own.

"I think if they are in charge of admitting so many students, they need to be able to provide them housing," said third-year UCSB student Kylie Heller.

She says it took her months to find housing off-campus in Isla Vista, adding that the lack of on-campus housing options has had drastic impacts on many of her classmates.

"I know so many people that are in their cars or living in hotels because they can’t find housing or they can’t afford it," Heller added.

As a result, both the County of Santa Barbara as well as the City of Goleta are now taking legal action to hold the university accountable to its development plan.

"We were engaged in discussions. The City of Goleta filed a lawsuit for breach of this agreement. Later, the county did so as well. The discussions didn’t yield a result that we could accept, so now we are in litigation," Hartmann said.

Both Supervisor Hartmann and Goleta City Councilmember Kyle Richards, however, say they can not provide specific details of their lawsuits.

Meanwhile, last fall, UCSB announced its plans for the development of a massive on-campus residence hall off Los Carneros Road, which university officials say would satisfy the student housing requirements of their plan. That project, however, is still pending approval.

"We need to join hands. Students, faculty, staff, the city, the county and say, 'University, you must build the housing on campus that your students, faculty and staff need,'" Hartmann added.

Last year, UCSB also received Regents' approval for the development of a 540-unit staff and faculty housing project on Ocean Road.

Though university officials were unavailable for an interview, their media spokesperson provided KSBY with a statement that read, in part, “Much like the challenges our community faces from the RHNA mandates, the University was directed by the State to increase its enrollment in order to provide more opportunities for California students. The university built 1500 new beds on campus and expanded the number of triples on campus to accommodate the vast majority of the mandated increase. Triples are not ideal housing, and the campus is fully engaged in a comprehensive process to add more affordable, safe, and quality student housing to our campus.”