Is Cal Poly Housing Enough Students on Campus?


Over the years, some San Luis Obispo neighborhoods surrounding the Cal Poly campus have changed from being primarily family oriented to the predominantly student oriented neighborhoods they are today. While some point the finger at Cal Poly, let’s dive a little deeper to find out what’s really going on. 

Since 2003, Cal Poly has invested more than half a billion dollars into student housing facilities to help accommodate recent and projected growth of the campus community. This investment has created more than 5,600 new students beds in various on-campus housing projects like the Cerro Vista Apartments, Poly Canyon Village and Student Housing South. At this point, Cal Poly has over 8,400 beds on campus that serve just under 40% of the approximate 22,000 undergraduate and graduate student population. By 2035, Cal Poly aims to house 60 to 65 percent of the projected student population on campus, including all first and second year students. University administration is currently working to finalize a Master Plan for future expansion of the campus and feasibility studies are in process to add another 2,600 beds, potentially through a public-private partnership. A partnership would enable Cal Poly to quickly and economically add more beds to the stock of on campus housing as developers would cover financing, construction and management of the project to the specifications of the university. The developer would incur capital costs, while paying the university fair market rent of the land only, while also receiving rental income generated from the student housing units. After a specific number of years (usually multiple decades), the buildings would revert to the university at minimal to no cost. This process alleviates the debt a university takes on themselves. It is likely that much of this new student housing would take place on surface parking lots just south of the Baggett baseball stadium. 

So why all the new construction over the last 15 years? It’s because the various residences halls most freshman get to call “home” on campus (Yosemite, Sierra Madre, North & South Mountain) were all constructed in the early 1950’s to 1970’s, and for the +/- 30 years after the Yosemite Residence Halls were completed, construction of new on-campus housing stagnated. This has created much of the pent up demand for student housing that is currently taking place, leading to many single family homes located within walking distance of campus being rented for $1,000+ per bedroom. That being said, the new student housing projects over the last 15 years have helped double the percentage of students living on campus, compared to 1975. Based on an independent study, the average rent of on-campus housing is ~14% less than off-campus housing, with on-campus leases generally spanning 10 months of the school years vs a standard 1- year lease most landlords require. University administration is committed to increasing housing on campus, which will in turn put less pressure on the local community related to the available housing stock. With an estimated 4,500-5,000 beds to add in the next ~15 years to reach the goal of 60% or more of students being housed on campus, it is my belief that a public-private partnership is the only way to achieve this, given the debt load Cal Poly already has in place from having constructed recent housing developments plus the rec center addition. Until then, demand for rental properties within a close proximity to campus will continue to be very strong. Want to know more? Call Graham at 805-459-1865 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

*Information courtesy of Cal Poly State University.

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