The purpose of the Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-op (SBSHC) is to provide low rent co-op housing for student, staff, and faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara, regardless of gender, race, social, political, or religious affiliation, and thereby influencing the community to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in the community. We strive to engage in continuous educational programs that further the principles of cooperation through mutual, self-help living at a minimal cost.

Our co-op was started in 1976 by a group of students at UCSB concerned about housing rates and slum conditions in Isla Vista. The students decided to form a cooperative to master lease buildings, thereby lowering rates and giving members greater control over the quality of the housing they occupied. The co-op was incorporated as the University Students' Rochdale Housing Project (USRHP), named after the Rochdale Co-op in England, which is recognized as the first successful modern consumer cooperative.

The USHRP co-op opened its first leased building in the fall of 1977 at 6520 Cervantes. The building had 31 one-bedroom apartments and held 61 members. The second building that the co-op master leased was at 6503 Madrid, and is still in the co-op’s possession to this day. By the fall of 1980, the co-op had master leased seven buildings and housed almost 200 members.

In 1981, USHRP passed a major milestone – the purchase of its first building. The co-op bought 6503 Madrid, which it had previously master leased, and named it after Patti Newman, one of the co-op's founding members and one of the first Executive Directors. Newman House comprises of 9 one and two-bedroom apartments. During the early 1980's the co-op continued its strategy of expansion through master leasing, eventually housing 480 university students and staff. The co-op's own staff grew quite large in order to accommodate a range of activities from building maintenance to member education.

In 1984, the USHRP purchased its second building, the Manley House. Manley was the co-op’s first group house, meaning members slept in bedrooms and worked together to organize the rest of the common household. The building is named after Steven Manley, an active co-op member who was killed over summer vacation while fighting forest fires in Los Padres National Forest.

At this point, the co-op's history takes an ominous turn. USHRP became engaged in a lawsuit with one of the property owners from which it leases several buildings. After a legal battle of several years, the co-op ended up losing the lawsuit, quite a bit of money, and many of its master-leased buildings. Eventually, USHRP ceased master-leasing altogether, and operated only the two buildings it owned: Newman and Manley. Although the lawsuit caused a lot of changes at the co-op, and a great deal of financial trouble at the time, the co-op is now in a financially stable position and is looking ahead to the future.

In 1991, the members of the co-op voted to change its name to "Santa Barbara Student Housing Co-ops," (SBSHC) in order to be more descriptive of its activities and to emphasize its relationship with the UCSB campus. The co-op also began a management arrangement with the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), an umbrella student co-op organization. NASCO provided SBSHC with an executive director that also served as the West Coast Developer and combined consulting efforts to get the co-op back on it’s feet.

In 1994 the tireless work and dedication of co-opers led to the acquisition of Dashain House. As a themed vegetarian house, Dashain was the first building within the co-op to have it's own meal plan. Initially it was going to be called the House of Seitan, but Dashain sounded friendlier as it also paid homage to a house pet. In 1997, the co-op bought Biko House, named for Steven Biko, the Black Nationalist student leader and revolutionary who fought and died in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa. Biko is a house for people of color and their allies committed to fighting racism.

In 2011, SBSHC purchased its fifth house, the Thomas Merton House, as an Interfaith Themed house. Purchased from the previous owner, the University Religious Center, SBSHC strives to continue positive and challenging discussions around faith and cooperation.

The governing system is a federated one in which the internal affairs of each individual house are controlled by an elected house level government. Matters of concern to more than one house or to the organization as a whole are determined by the SBSHC Board of Directors. House officers are elected popularly on a one-member, one-vote basis, as are the representatives of the Board of Directors. Control of the organization is vested ultimately in the members through the Board, which is composed of seven members and two non-members. Members are elected proportionately by the houses, and non-members are two community representatives appointed by the Board. No Board member has the power of veto. Member Directors serve annual terms, while Community Directors serve indefinite terms. This arrangement provides continuity and experience while retaining control in the hands of the membership.

SBSHC is almost entirely managed by its member managers. All management of individual houses is performed by members appointed by their housemates and compensated in the form of rent credit. These managers supervise all functions conducted by members in their houses or apartments, including meal service, housekeeping, maintenance, gardening, and finances.

Each resident member is obligated to complete chore tasks as assigned by the member house manager. All the houses prepare their own meals using chores and under the supervision of elected member kitchen managers. Likewise, most routine and minor maintenance is done by house members under the supervision of the elected member house maintenance manager.

In addition to the student management, there is a professional full-time staff of 2 people who oversee centralized operations. The professional staff consists of the Executive Director and Member Services Coordinator. Central functions include collection of fees, applications and assignments, fiscal management and major maintenance. While the full-time staff provides continuity and expertise for the organization, major policy and organizational decisions are still reserved for the Board of Directors.

The Board is the sole governing body of the SBSHC, and all members are welcome to attend, speak, and make motions at each of its meetings. Each house has at least one Board Representative, and two at-large Representatives that can be elected from any of the houses. There are also two Community Representatives that are appointed by the Board. The Board meets every other week for two hours, and on the off-week, the Steering Committee meets.

The Board works as a representational democracy in which the houses elect Board Representatives; the Board Representatives elect the Officers; the Officers chair committees of the Board; the Board votes on proposals from the committees and staff affecting SBSHC continuing policy, and sets the annual budget for the Co-op. Officer positions that serve on the Board of Directors are the President, the Vice President, the Secretary and the Treasurer.


Ester Lee
Operations Coordinatorr

In Progress

Noah Compo
Member Services Coordinator

Noah deals with housing applications, information on housing, and contracts. He is responsible for recruitment, advertising/outreach and renewals, and can answer any and all housing questions and problems. Noah manages the Service Program, helps coordinate events and other generally fun/nice things! This is not a picture of Noah.