Our Mission.

The Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative (SBSHC) provides low-rent cooperative housing for students attending post-secondary educational institutions in Santa Barbara County.

SBSHC welcomes members regardless of gender, race, social, political or religious affiliation, thereby working to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in our communities. We strive to engage in continuous educational programs that further the principles of cooperation through mutual, self-help living at a minimal cost.

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Our History.

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 2018, the house was renamed to Dolores in honor of Dolores Huerta, a farmworkers rights activist in California. 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.


To be eligible for housing in the Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative, you must be a student of UC Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, or another post-secondary educational institution in Santa Barbara County.

A student is defined as anyone currently enrolled in classes during the quarter(s) of their lease contract. During the summer contract period, student status is in effect as long as the member is enrolled as a student during a contiguous term (i.e. they were enrolled the prior year or are enrolled for next school year).


SBSHC will begin accepting applications on Friday January 12th, 2024 for the Summer 2024 and School Year 2024-2025 contract periods. It is best to turn in your application as soon as they become available.

Applications are accepted and spots in the co-op are offered on a rolling first-come, first-served basis.

Applicants interested in immediate housing can apply here to get added to our current waitlist.

  • The School Year 2023-24 contract period runs from September 24, 2023 - June 18, 2024.
  • The Summer 2024 contract period runs from June 21, 2024 - September 19, 2024.
  • The School Year 2024-25 contract period runs from September 22, 2024 - June 17, 2025.
The number of available spots varies from year to year depending on how many current residents wish to renew their membership. New applicants have the best chance of getting offered a spot by applying early, attending our House Tours, Info Sessions, and House Social Events in January/February, and by not having too strict a list of housing preferences on their application. (For example, applicants who indicate that they require a studio apartment or single room in one specific house and are not willing to accept other options may not be placed even if their application was submitted very early.)
For current rate information, click here.
It depends on your preferences and lifestyle. For example, if you are a vegan or vegetarian you might consider Dolores House, because they only buy and cook vegetarian food and are exceptionally conscious about the products they consume. If you prefer to be in a home environment that values making space for POC or members of the LGBTQ+ community, you may be most interested in Biko or Newman House. There are lots of options and reasons to live in each SBSHC house. You can read about all our houses here or you can contact us to set up a visit or to talk to current members of a particular house.
Most co-op members (about 75%) live in a shared room, though it is possible to be placed in a single if you apply early enough. Members already living in the co-ops have the opportunity to switch into single rooms when they become available, and these rooms are awarded to interested members based on seniority. In other words, you may not get a single room when you first apply, but the longer you live in the co-op the better your chances of getting a single.

Each house has some amount of communal furniture: beds, desks, dressers, couches, etc. that former members pass down, but we do not guarantee that your room will be furnished in any particular way. It is very common for new members to move in and be able to find what they need, but it is best to check in before your arrival if you need something specific.

You can provide your personal touches with your own linens, curtains, etc. You can even install shelving or paint your room. This is your home, so feel free to make it your own!

Future contracts can be canceled by paying a cancellation fee, which varies based on how long before your contract's start date you terminate the contract.

Current members have several options for terminating their contracts early depending on the situation. Please contact anbo at anbareen@sbcoop.org for more information.