The enormous socioeconomic differences between most USC students and the non-student residents who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the schools campus are not a secret, but USC's 2015 State of the Neighborhood report suggests that, at least where housing is concerned, the presence of students could be exacerbating the situation for locals, decreasing housing affordability and increasing crowding. USC drew on information from focus groups of local residents (English- and Spanish-speaking) as well as USC faculty and staff and staff from community-based organizations working in the area to compile the report. Locals who participated in the study's focus groups felt that "rent costs were influenced by local property owners seeking to increase profits from the student population."
The types of units that students live in are very different than those that are rented out by non-students. A 2007 study by Enterprise Community Partners "found that only 11 percent of multiunit community housing was rated as high quality, whereas about a third of multiunit student housing was rated as high quality." High quality doesn't mean that there are granite countertops or a dishwasher; it means that a rental unit is free of things like mold and vermin, and has functional plumbing.
The housing for locals around USC is also crowded; according to a 2012 survey by USC, one-third of owner-occupied units and two-thirds of renter-occupied units fell into the category of "severely overcrowded." A large part of the area that the study looked at falls under the zip code 90007, which was previously identified as nearly 24 percent overcrowded (here defined as more than one person per room in a household). Residents who participated in the study shared stories that indicate that a big part of overcrowding is that landlords themselves are divvying up units to create more rentable space and increase profits.
Overall, the areas around USC that were included in the study had below-average rents compared to the rest of the city—the median was $895 near the university versus $1,156 citywide. Neighborhoods in the area also have a slightly above-average amount of rent-controlled units, which should protect tenants from big rent spikes, but also makes them vulnerable to displacement and evictions from property owners hoping to cash in on high rates that students can (theoretically) pay. Displacement of locals has become a prominent issue in the area, with university staff and faculty who participated in the study saying they'd like to see programs in place that help stem evictions. The study seems optimistic that USC's enormous Village project just north of the campus could help alleviate some of the demand that's driving overcrowding, rising rents, and fears of eviction. The project would create 2,700 new student housing spots when it's finished in 2017.
· USC State of the Neighborhood Report [Issuu]
· USC Starts Work on Huge New Mixed-Use Addition to Campus [Curbed LA]
· Historic South-Central Has the Most Crowded Housing in the US [Curbed LA]
· Mass Rent-Control Evictions Doubled in Los Angeles Last Year [Curbed LA]