UC Regents approve UC Santa Cruz plan to increase student housing, expand child care

Student Housing West will create more affordable housing for current students and reduce housing pressure in the Santa Cruz community

Student Housing West will offer a variety of housing accommodations and allow upper-division undergraduate students and graduate students to continue living on campus, instead of seeking housing in the local community. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

Recognizing the critical role housing plays in supporting student success, the University of California Board of Regents today reapproved a project that will significantly increase the number of current UC Santa Cruz students who are able to live on campus.

Student Housing West will enable UC Santa Cruz to offer much more housing to its graduate students and upper-division undergraduates by building new housing units with space for more than 3,000 students. The project, spread across two sites, will also allow the campus to expand child-care services. 

Chancellor Cynthia Larive said Student Housing West provides the most rapid and direct route to creating more housing for undergraduate students and graduate students. Housing equity is a foundation for student success, one of the campus’s highest priorities.

“Students should be focused on their studies—not whether they’ll be able to find an affordable place to live,” said Larive. “This project will offer our current students many more options for living on campus and allow them to avoid competing in the local housing market, which is only growing more expensive.”

Larive on Wednesday presented the project to the Finance and Capital Strategies Committee. Regents voiced their support for more campus housing in Santa Cruz and made clear that the campus must prioritize affordability. 

In evaluating Student Housing West and alternatives, campus leaders factored in many objectives with affordability and minimal displacement of students with families being among them. The project UC Santa Cruz brought to the board both makes most programmatic sense—as it creates a new student family community and child care facility near existing employee housing—and it’s the project that will allow the campus to create the most affordable housing.

Alumni Regent-designate Art Torres (Stevenson, ’68, government) said he supported the chancellor’s position and praised her careful evaluation of the project and willingness to hear all the differing perspectives on the project.

Torres said there’s no better place for students with children to live than the UCSC campus and supported the campus in trying to create a supportive environment for student families.

“As a graduate and someone who has followed this very closely over the years, this is a much overdue and very needed project,” Torres said.

There are currently limited on-campus housing options for upper-division undergraduates and graduate students. Many of these students must find housing in the surrounding community, which remains in a severe housing crisis, like much of the state. 

The housing shortage in Santa Cruz has only grown more urgent, both because of the summer wildfire that destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and the increasing number of people deciding to move to Santa Cruz because they can work remotely.

UC Santa Cruz is renowned for its transformative undergraduate educational experience that’s rooted in its 10 residential colleges. Before COVID-19 required a switch to primarily remote activities, UC Santa Cruz was housing about 9,300 students, more than half of its undergraduate students.

Student Housing West will offer a variety of housing accommodations and allow upper-division undergraduate students and graduate students to continue living on campus, instead of seeking housing in the local community.

Land at the intersection of Hagar and Coolidge roads will be used to build a new housing community for students with families and a new early childhood education center that will serve the children of faculty and staff as well as students. The site is across the street from existing employee housing, near Westlake Elementary School, and near the campus’s main entrance. The campus is hoping to start construction as soon as possible.

After the new housing community is built, UC Santa Cruz will be able to tear down the aging buildings currently home to students with families so that the campus can build six new buildings that will provide housing for approximately 2,700 undergraduate students and 220 graduate students.

Student Housing West will also advance the campus’s long-standing commitment to sustainability. The project includes solar panels as well as a water recycling facility that will allow UC Santa Cruz to reuse wastewater for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets and irrigation.

Student Housing West was first approved two years ago, though lawsuits prevented the campus from meeting its original timeline to build more housing.

A Santa Cruz County judge in October 2020 upheld UC’s detailed environmental review of Student Housing West. The project underwent a thorough analysis, underscoring the campus’s commitment to the environment. The judge also concluded errors were made in the process the Regents used when they first approved the project.