Santa Barbara County Sues UCSB Over Lack of Student Housing

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 last month to sue the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) for failing to build adequate housing for its growing student body. The lawsuit claims UCSB violated the terms of the 2010 Long Range Development Plan Settlement Agreement, which requires the campus to build 5,000 additional housing units once student enrollment exceeds 25,000. 

“Despite numerous attempts by the County to secure a reliable timeline as to when UCSB will build the required housing, there is no timeline or commitment by UCSB for when the requirement will be addressed,” said County Supervisor Gregg Hart, whose district includes UCSB. “Litigation was the only path remaining to compel UCSB to act upon their obligation.” 

According to the Santa Barbara Independent, UCSB has only built 1,500 new units. The university contends it hasn’t crossed the 25,000 threshold because it always gets 10% fewer students in the spring after fall enrollment. There are eventually plans for a 4,500-student dorm to be built by wealthy investor Charles Munger, but the proposal is fraught with controversy and it’s unclear if it will ever be built.

This is the second time a jurisdiction has sued UCSB over its failure to plan for student housing. In late 2021, Goleta filed a lawsuit against UCSB for the exact same reason.  

In response to the county’s lawsuit, UCSB spokesperson Kiki Reyes said the university has been bern working with the county to address the university’s “significant and unanticipated undergraduate enrollment increases” and will continue to do so.

“We look forward to continuing our discussions with the County,” she added, “and are hopeful that any lawsuit does not result in needless and expensive litigation, instead of ongoing collaboration.”