CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (650) 723-2558
Graduate students, scholars struggling to find rental housing
STANFORD -- Poets of yore might have been known for living in garrets, but Goldberry Long says she couldn't compose a single couplet living in the apartment she found near the Stanford campus. The toilet sits in a converted closet, its back facing and partly blocking the doorway to the main room of the studio apartment, which rents for $650 a month. That's $50 more than the Stegner poetry fellow paid last year for the entire bottom floor of a house near the University of Iowa campus.
Students, visiting scholars and staff are finding apartment-hunting very stressful and time consuming this fall because the Bay Area rental housing market is the tightest it has been in recent years. Local newspapers are reporting that the shortage is especially acute in the Silicon Valley, where vacancy rates are around 1 percent or even less. "We've heard it is because Silicon Valley employment is expanding," said Jennifer Padilla, supervisor of the university's Community Housing Services office. Given the strong demand, many landlords are forsaking conventional advertising, she said, and are using just signs on their buildings or they are relying completely on word of mouth. For newcomers to the area, that means greater difficulty finding a place to live.
So far this August, the housing service for Stanford-affiliated students, scholars and staff has averaged just 145 listings on any given day, compared to an average of 195 last August and an average of 311 in August 1994, Padilla said. She urged faculty, staff and students who have apartments or rooms available or who would like to share housing, to list them with her office. (The campus service, which charges the general public $27 for a listing, will offer a discount for faculty and staff who will list a unit, Padilla said. Registered students who have a unit to share or rent already get a discount because the service was set up primarily to aid students.)
Faculty and staff who are long-term leaseholders on university land can rent extra rooms to students, although they are not permitted to build rental units on the property, according to Carolyn Sargent, manager of the Faculty/Staff Housing Program.
The Community Housing Services' database of rentals in the area is available only to current Stanford affiliates. Using Stanford identification, staff, faculty and students can access the database before arriving on campus via the World Wide Web or they can view the list on computer screens or bulletin boards in Room 110 of Old Union.
Students like Long, who arrived for classes more than a month early to look for a place to live, are shocked. Those with pets are finding it especially difficult, Padilla said.
"It is taking people weeks and sometimes more than a month to obtain affordable housing or any housing at all. Competition is so fierce that apartments in the most popular neighborhoods are being rented within hours of being placed on the market."
If the market continues to be this tight, Padilla said she fears that the university will start to lose some visiting scholars and graduate students when they decide they can't afford to live in the area. The problem is not acute for undergraduates, since the university offers on-campus housing to all undergraduates who want it.
"I've seen hovels for $900 a month," Long said last week as she clicked through a computer screen of housing listings at Stanford's housing office. At the computer next to her, 11-year-old Jivan Tokuyma of Mill Valley was looking too, for his medical student mother and himself. "Wow," he said, when he finally spotted a listing for a $925 apartment that would take the family's cat. "This is the first one I've seen where we could have our cat," he said.
For more information, contact Community Housing Services at (415) 723-3906.
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