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UCLA Pauses Dorm Project Over 'Worrisome' Room Size

Board questions mental health effects of putting three students in 265 square feet
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2023 4:50 PM CDT
Regents Balk at Housing 3 Students in One Small Room
Westwood and the UCLA campus   (Getty/Jim Brown)

Regents like the idea of low-cost housing for students at UCLA, but they're questioning what the residents of a proposed dorm would be getting for their money. The plans call for triple-occupancy rooms of 265 square feet, which would include three beds, desks, closets, and a refrigerator. Plus, somehow, storage space. "I don't want to call these jails," one of the regents said, "but ... these aren't really good dorms." Another regent said research has linked "micro-units" to negative mental health effects, the Los Angeles Times reports. The University of California Regents decided Thursday to put off voting on the eight-story, 545-bed project.

While acknowledging the shortage of affordable housing, California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, an ex-officio regent, spoke against the trend of campuses providing "smaller and smaller" spaces to squeeze in as many students as possible. "It really is worrisome," she said, adding that "there is a limit that can get us to the point where students can ... really experience negative mental health impact by the way that they're being asked to live." UC Santa Barbara took heat for its plans to build a dorm with small, mostly windowless rooms for 4,500 students.

Regent John A. Pérez objected to a UCLA housing official contending this week that the idea was to keep dorm costs down for low-income students, saying the suggestion was that "for poor kids, this density is OK." The official apologized. The plans call for reserving at least 350 of the 545 beds for low-income students, who would pay $600 per month, per the Times. The housing officials did not answer the regents' concerns about mental health. The dorm's design provides for community bathrooms and shared spaces where students could cook, eat, study, and hang out. (More UCLA stories.)

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