Finding housing for the upcoming school year is nearly as stressful as school itself, forcing students to jump through hoops without receiving much in return.
One of the most difficult aspects of living in an on-campus apartment is attempting to win the roommate jackpot. While housing communities attempt to pair inhabitants based on their cleanliness and interests, the “personality surveys” they disperse are only misleading estimates of someone’s ability to live with others. It is hard to admit one’s faults, and ten times harder to admit these faults to people who will decide who you will be living with for the next year.
The refusal to “out” oneself has been the catalyst for some of the best and worst stories I’ve heard during my time at UCI. Clean freaks being forced to live with slobs for a year leads to hilarious results, so long as you are neither of the parties involved. While it’s fun to laugh at these awkward scenarios, it’s equally sad to think that these situations could be avoided altogether.
Roommate compatibility could be greatly improved if tenants did not fill out their own surveys. If tenants were evaluated by their past roommates instead of by themselves, I feel that housing communities would have a much more grounded, realistic description of what it’s like to live with someone.
Although this method of evaluation may stir up unwanted drama between roommates, honesty is the best policy. This system would benefit everyone in the housing search, making sure likes are paired with likes and reducing the tensions of two conflicting personalities in an apartment.
This system comes into conflict when students decide to renew their leases with the same roommates, but this aspect of housing is even more complicated than that of finding copacetic roommates. Housing offices provide very little service to residents hoping to return for another school year. I was given the option to renew my lease for next year, but only under the caveat that I would not be allowed to move rooms. If I wanted to relocate elsewhere in my apartment complex, I would have to join the lottery of students seeking a new apartment.
Similarly, one of my friends renewed his lease at his community, but was put on a waitlist for his own apartment.
Renewing a lease should not be as hard as the various communities on campus make it. At the very least, there should be a renewal rule that allows students to lock in another year in their apartment before anyone else gets it. This is a privilege many students assumed they had and were sorely disappointed to discover they didn’t.
While this is unfortunate for students, it is one of the many unavoidable consequences of being a desperate college student. Housing companies know that, no matter who they put into their units, they’ll get their money. Repeat customers and glowing reviews mean nothing to them because, despite the terrifying stories and overpriced apartments, they will still fill each of their units with students.
These issues could be easily fixed, but it is unlikely that housing companies would ever think of doing so. Renewing a lease means renewing with the same rate paid during the previous year and, with housing prices increasing annually, apartment complexes are incentivized to make sure their old tenants are replaced with new, higher-paying residents.
Housing is a harsh business students must subject themselves to every year. While there is no solution on the horizon and little hope of one appearing anytime soon, the frustrations of dealing with housing companies at least serves as a uniting force for college students to complain about.
Isaac Espinosa is a second-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.