Expensive and Unresponsive: ACC Housing
To an outsider looking in, the American Campus Community (ACC) housing must seem like a prime, lavish place to live while attending UC Irvine; however, to student residents of ACC, the luxury is often accompanied by stress and frustration. As a resident of Vista Del Campo (VDC), I am only telling my story about one of the four housing communities of ACC, but I encourage you to keep in mind that all four of the apartment complexes are under the same management and, therefore, interact with students in a similar manner. Having said that, a disheartening lesson that my roommates and I have learned in the short year that we have lived here is that the ACC administration is quick to charge money and slow to communicate when we want to know why.
In November, the VDC staff sent out lease renewal emails for the 2014-2015 year. This email revealed that rent would be increasing next year by just over $40 every month; the email stated, “Please note that in most cases rental rates are increasing, as they do yearly. Please see your new monthly rate below. This new rate will take effect starting with your August 2014 payment.” An annual rent increase of over $500 surely merits more than a vague sentence hidden in a lengthy email. Students deserve, and should expect, to be informed about what their money is going toward as the rent rates continue to increase. Is the money going toward the new electric locks that were just installed? What about the recent work done to repaint the floors of the buildings? If those kinds of projects are being funded by the money coming in from the increasing rental installments, students deserve to be informed of such and should, furthermore, have a say in the future projects. Based on the opinions of my roommates and I, it is safe to say that many students would find these projects unnecessary and would be highly unwilling to pay for them.
If the projects are not funded by the rent installments, then what is the extra money going toward? Surely, inflation does not call for an increase in rent by over $500 each for over a thousand residents living in the complex; that which does not even include the extra money coming from an increase in the price of parking permits.The ACC housing communities are undoubtedly a more expensive alternative to the apartment complexes closer to campus such as Berkley and Stanford court. This, however, is somewhat justified by the exceptional amenities and living conditions provided by complexes like VDC: a community center with free printing and plenty of entertainment, a round-the-clock gym, laundry centers, a pool and Jacuzzi. The apartments themselves are equipped with cable, heating, air and electricity which are every college student’s dream. Unfortunately, these dreams are crushed by the stress and frustration that stirs from the lack of communication between staff and residents. The question at hand is not the costliness of residency here, but rather, why the ACC administration remains vague and suspicious as it gets costlier.
The general lack of information accompanying the increase in rent is only one example of this communication problem. My apartment alone has been charged for damages that we did not cause and then sent through a whirlwind of staff members just to get the charges lifted. I emailed the staff several times over the summer about purchasing a fall parking permit because, as a new resident, I was uninformed about the process. Not a single email was returned, and I received a parking ticket because my permit was not processed in time to evade the ticket. The staff was generally unhelpful to my roommates and me as new residents in the fall that were coming from the dorms where housing payments were made with tuition. Confused about the payment methods for rent and trying to work with our families to make sense of this unfamiliar system, we found the staff generally absent.
I was informed that an original copy of my lease renewal needed to be resigned by my dad and that it was due a week later. Common courtesy would allow a little while longer than a week for a signature on a lease that had to be mailed home and back.
While my attitudes about ACC have improved over the course of the year, the unorganized and often disastrous communication between residents and administration makes it a hard place to live peacefully. The American Campus Communities has the potential to be, arguably, the perfect place to live while at UCI, if only the staff cared as much about their communicative relationship with the residents as they do about taking their money.
Cassandra Vick is a second year psychology and social behavior major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.