Jose Cuevas, the off-campus housing coordinator for SHaRE, has been busy meeting with an onslaught of students who were unable to secure on-campus housing for the 2015-16 school year. Cuevas, who has experienced San Francisco housing at its worst, hopes to help these students find the safest, most affordable housing in the city. Below are a list of questions and answers that are designed to assist students looking for housing this late in the school year.
Q: If students who are wanting to live off campus still have not found roommates, what’s the best way for them to do so at this point?
A: Use the off-campus housing Facebook, that’s one way to connect. We do have a roommate finder too, on the off campus housing website. They’re somewhat effective. I’ve been more intentional in trying to create more programs, and creating more workshops. […] And I’ve been trying to create a network through that, so the people that come […] can meet each other that way. If I interact with one student that seems to be very much shy and introverted, and I meet another person in my drop-ins, sometimes I’ll try to connect them. When you start doing larger methods, it becomes more difficult to humanize each student individually and make sure that you’re responsive to their needs. I think that’s how sometimes students fall through the cracks.
Q: What are the workshops that you’ve done already, and what can we expect to see in the future?
A: The first one I did was last week, it was how to prepare a rental packet. The rental packet is what you need to have ready before you start searching. So that’s your renter’s resume, a cover letter; the cover letter is going to be the thing that always changes, because it needs to be tailored to a specific place or a specific landlord.
Q: Similar to a job?
A: Exactly. The formula is the same for the cover letter and the resume, but the intent is different. The “Golden Ticket” is the Community Relations Policy. The Community Relations Policy demystifies that [students are partiers] because essentially […] when you have that golden ticket to show to your landlord, you let them know ‘I am going to live in such a way that makes sure that I’m a responsible neighbor and a responsible tenant.’
Bank statements — in the renter’s resume there’s a budgeting chart that I want students to work on where it says where they’re getting their money from. So if it’s from parents, it verifies that income. Let’s say your parents are giving you $1300 a month. As a landlord, I could ask you ‘Okay, could you show me proof that you’re going to get that $1300 monthly.’ So it would be either their bank statements showing that the amount exists, or your bank statement showing the money coming in. Beyond the bank statement is the credit report. I understand this more than anyone of all because when I went to college, I was not of means at all; I had to work four jobs to get myself through college. My parents had no-good credit, I had no-good credit, so what was my trump card was showing verifiable income, and showing that budgeting chart to show that I had that money, and it made them trust me more.
Q: What are the best ways to search for an apartment?
A: The resources are different; if there are more means you can contact a leasing agent, it will be a lot easier. If you don’t have those means you have to go through the traditional process which would be going to viewings, using websites like Craigslist, Padmapper, Zumper, Zillow. And it would just be a process of trial and error, but educated trial and error, knowing you shouldn’t be wiring money to anybody, you should always try to view the place. I always recommend Padmapper because that one is through Google Maps. I recommend Padmapper because it’s a Google Map that shows primordially room shares, which are rooms inside a house and the most affordable for students. Craigslist is going to have the most results, but you really have to have an eye out for spotting scams. The best way to spot scams is to try to go to to the actual listing.
Q: So what would you consider to be the best neighborhood for students to live in? In terms of safety, affordability, proximity, availability, etc.
A: Richmond. Definitely Richmond. Because in the end of the day it’s about getting a roof over your head. […] It’s about eliminating options. So if option A is the Richmond, and it doesn’t work out, then you go to the Sunset. If Sunset doesn’t work out, then you go to the neighborhood adjacent to SF State. If that neighborhood doesn’t work out then you go to the Excelsior, if that doesn’t work out you go to Daly City, [then Oakland, East Bay, etc.] There’s a lot of resources, and beyond that it’s about allowing students to understand that resilience is a beautiful thing, and it’s what’s going to get you through things in life.
Q: So [for students whose parents are paying their rent] how do parents play into signing a lease? I know that a lot of this is case-by-case, and depends on the landlord. How do we need to communicate with our parents on the subject?
A: The biggest thing is first of all securing a credit report, which most likely will be their credit score that will be vouching for you. Because at the end of the day, that credit score means a lot. So it really is on a case by case basis, but if you go to a viewing and you really like the place, in your rental packet you should have that credit score and those bank statements. If the cosigner is required as a guarantor, then the paperwork will most likely be faxed to your parent or guardian that would be cosigning and would be the guarantor in that situation.
Q: What can you recommend for students who can’t afford San Francisco rent prices but want to remain at USF? You talk about going over the Bay, you talk about working multiple jobs, is there anything else that you suggest to these students?
A: Buddying up is the best way. The Excelsior is really the last bastion for affordable housing in San Francisco, and when I say ‘affordable’ I mean affordable in quotation marks. I’ve been able to find places in the Richmond, or in the Sunset, where it’s three bedroom homes for $3,000. If six people live there, and we divide that up, it’s really cheap. I identify as a student who struggled a lot in college financially. It’s also important to show living proof and say, ‘Hey, I made it. I had over three or four gigs.’ And at the end of the day, the beautiful thing about it is I tell them, by the time I graduated college, I was so responsible for my age that it made things so much easier. So it’s important to let them know that those sacrifices do pay off.
Q: So what other kind of additional fees can we expect upon move-in?
A: So when you move in, you typically secure the place with first month’s rent, last month’s rent, and a security deposit. So hypothetically let’s pretend a room for a person is $1100 a month. That’s $1100 a month for first month’s rent, $1100 twice for last month’s rent, and a security deposit. Some landlords like to either charge the same amount, so rent a third time, or rent times half as security deposit. So let’s say this time they’re charging rent times half, so you combine that and it’s $3650 total.
Cuevas will be available for drop in hours through the end of finals week, and will remain available for assistance through phone or skype call throughout the summer. His information and availability can be found through USF’s Off Campus Housing Website, and students can reach him through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.