By Mohammad Raza
Social media plays a leading role in uncovering a plethora of important truths for social movements. Recently, a Facebook post on the University of California, Irvine page highlighted the issue of overpriced apartments and the general exploitation of college students. It gathered over 160 likes and over 120 comments, sparking debate and discussion.
Struggling UCI sophomore Justin Almazan had had enough with the Irvine Company’s absurd prices. Headquartered in Newport Beach, the Irvine Company is a private real estate company that has developed a large portion of the communities in the Orange County area. Almazan began his rant by expressing his utmost hatred for the company’s policies and his frustration with the university’s financial aid office.
“I have never seen in my life anybody ever ask $3000 for a…security deposit,” commented Almazan.
He continued by saying that his rent is almost as high, coming in at about $2805, an absurd amount of money to pay for a small apartment. According to apartment renting website forrent.com, in neighboring Costa Mesa, two-bedroom apartments range from $1500-$1800 a month–significantly less than apartments in Irvine. According to the LA Times, California law permits landlords to charge up to two months’ rent for the security deposit for an unfurnished apartment. Almazan countered by questioning whether the Irvine Company understands that, at a college campus, students are already struggling to pay tuition, let alone their rent.
In a typical housing situation, an apartment contains 5 to 6 roommates, with landlords usually capping the number of tenants to 5. With a rent this high, a student who receives a decent amount of aid would still need to find a job. Most students have minimum wage jobs, which might yield $700 on a good month. Rent would be about $500 on top of utilities. The student now only has $200 left to pay for food or tuition. While UC tuition has been temporarily frozen, there’s no telling whether it will be raised in the near future. With the high standard of living in Irvine, it is impossible for a student to live on a part-time job without assistance. Thus, every corner students turn, whether it’s paying living expenses or textbook fees, they are being involuntarily exploited.
This type of exploitation leads to cycles of debt and deteriorating health. How can our county’s youth prosper if they start their adult lives thousands of dollars in debt? Ethically, this is an inhumane practice.
Economically, it leads to a large portion of the population burdened by crippling debt. Large amounts of defaulting loans leads to a collapse of financial institutions similar to that of the economic collapse of 2007.
During the years preceding the “Great Recession,” large amounts of predatory loans were granted in a housing market where prices were being inflated. Political Correctness, a fact-checking organization, explains that “Private firms dominated the subprime market boom of 2004-06…Thanks to decades of financial deregulation…financial giants were able to turn the mortgage market into a high-stakes casino.” As investors and banks played with the mortgages of the middle and lower classes, a large number of people defaulted on their loans and caused the collapse of the economy. With the ever-increasing debts of today’s generation of students, a repeat of such an economic collapse is highly likely.
In order to resolve this issue, the next plausible step is to question whether UCI’s administration has made any effort to help their students. ASUCI President Parshan Khosravi has recognized this issue and aims to address it in his upcoming term, stating that “The issue of housing affordability is a concern both within the UC system and here at UC Irvine. Over the upcoming year, my office will be collaborating with the council of presidents to further address this issue.”
However, the details of this campaign are still in development. Regardless, the ASUCI president beginning conversation with administration is a step in the right direction. UC Irvine’s administration should actively prioritize the well-being of its students–academically and financially–and thus must take action on affordable housing now.
Mohammad Raza is a second-year political science major. He can be reached at email@example.com.