UC Merced may delay start of semester amid housing shortage

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Valley heat is nothing compared to the hot housing market in the North Valley.

"Before the pandemic, we averaged 300 houses on the market in the city of Merced. As of this morning, we have 76," says realtor Andy Krotik.

In addition to a flourishing seller's market, lower interest rates are boosting buying power.

"The average days on market are going pre-pandemic from 37 days to 7 days on the market," says Krotik.

That skyrocketing demand trickles down to the rental market too.

"The key to getting the rents down is getting more units again - it's supply and demand," says Krotik.

COVID 19 pandemic caused demand to surge but also caused lumber prices to rise and caused construction delays.

The Merced Station apartment complex is no exception.

Earlier this week, would-be student tenants received emails stating material and labor shortages meant their move-in date would be postponed until late September, more than a month after the planned start of the fall semester.

RELATED: Housing shortage, delayed construction leaves 1,100 UC Merced students without guaranteed housing

While there is no partnership between the University and the developers of Merced Station, campus officials recognize the difficulty of finding any housing, and having a whole complex not ready adds to that problem.

Student advocate Jeremy Veramendi says their student community felt unheard at Thursday night's town hall and is calling on UC Merced to increase housing on campus to reflect increased enrollment or consider hybrid learning for more than just first-year students.

"Student renters have found themselves in a very risky situation where they have no choice in deciding where to go next," Veramendi says.

Anticipating close to 2,500 new students, UC Merced planned for roughly 3,600 beds.

Not commenting on camera, campus officials say they are exploring a number of options including local hotel accommodations for more than 300 students with leases at Merced Station until their apartment is ready.

UC Merced officials say campus housing was designed for triple occupancy, but until now, rooms were only booked as doubles.

With the newly created demand, they are working to add those beds into the dorms, but they still need state fire marshall approval and additional furniture.

They're hoping to get that done before the start of the fall semester.

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