Most renters in the city are probably unaware of the forces driving up rents for working people. Within the last year, developers and landlords have been buying up and converting regular apartments into student housing, particularly near Santa Barbara City College.
In the guise of serving the needs of students, these landlords are exploiting out-of-town students, driving up rents for residents of Santa Barbara, and lining their own pockets — handsomely.
Here are some examples:
A developer purchased the apartments on the corner of Cliff Drive and Loma Alta. He has converted the complex’s two-bedroom apartments that used to rent for between $2,000-$2,400 a month into student housing, now charging $4,000 for those very same apartments — $800 per student with five in each apartment.
Another landlord has purchased four properties on the lower Westside. Many of those buildings formerly housed Section 8 tenants. Now these go for from $1,600 for a one bedroom (650 square feet, sleeping two /$800 a student) to starting rent of $4,590 for a three bedroom, 2 bath (sleeping seven students/$655 each).
Another purchase on the Mesa of a four-bedroom home was recently advertised to SBCC students for $8,500 a month.
Out-of-town students fall for the seemingly low per capita charge without doing the math as to what they are actually paying and without knowing what the market rate is here. And while rents are high here, these are exorbitant.
Not all landlords are unscrupulous. Most charge the going rate. But this trend toward jacking up the price for students, charging on a per capita basis, and evicting regular working people is having the effect of raising everyone’s rents across the city.
What can be done? First of all, students need to do the math. Paying twice the normal rate for the privilege of not having to find roommates is a pretty steep cost. Ultimately they, too, will pay the price over time.
Second, landlords and developers need to be exposed for what they are doing under the guise of “helping students.”
Third, the City Council needs to recognize what is happening and take steps to address the problems associated with housing 21,000 out-of-area students every year who are not served by dorms.