Multiple residents of Bannockburn Village, the oldest apartment complex on the University of California, Riverside (UCR) campus, have reported a wide variety of issues causing the student housing complex to be almost unlivable. These issues include but are not limited to asbestos, mold, roaches and rust. 

Many Bannockburn residents have come forward to bring light to the issues they have experienced while living in this housing complex, with some even stating  that they felt fooled by the virtual tours and advertising surrounding the complex. 

Alexandria Neuhausen, a resident of Bannockburn for the past year, described that the only impressions of the complex she had before moving were from the virtual tour, which displayed Bannockburn as “so pretty, bright and colorful. It looked completely different from the pictures when I walked in … to me [Bannockburn] felt kinda gross.” 

Neuhausen shared that when she helped her friend move into their new apartment in Bannockburn village they were confronted with “dead roaches in his kitchen cabinet.”

Displaying the other problems presented by her apartment, Neuhausen explained that when she first walked into the bathroom, “there was mold, and since the bathroom does not have proper ventilation, when you take a shower, the mold builds up. It does not matter how many times you clean it, eventually the mold grows back the next day.” 

Since housing has neglected to solve the issues around her apartment, Grace Johnson, a resident of Bannockburn for four years, has started fixing things herself “because the likelihood of something getting fixed by housing is 50/50.” 

The biggest safety concern for Neuhausen and her roommates is the ceiling leakage causing the asbestos from their popcorn ceiling to be scattered throughout their apartment. According to UCR’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) “Bannockburn Village has asbestos content in ceiling and wall materials. The health hazard is low unless this material is disturbed.” Similarly, Johnson stated, “My biggest concern is the asbestos leaking from the ceiling, it’s concerning for health reasons.”

Neuhausen elaborated upon the situation explaining, “there are four pockets of water” around the ceiling of their apartment “that drip water into the carpet.” This has been an ongoing issue for the apartment they reside in long before Neuhausen moved in. Johnson, echoed similar concerns to that of Neuhausen, explaining, “Our ceiling leaks and drips on the floor.” She continued, “The entire time that I have lived here, and before that, these issues have persisted.” 

When Neuhausen and her roommates contacted housing about this, they provided them with buckets to collect the water and told them that they cannot fix the leakage. Neuhausen claimed that housing told her the reason they could not fix this was because it would require them “to move out the people upstairs and they do not want to put any more money into Bannockburn because it is going to fall one day.” 

In February, Neuhausen wrote out a letter to housing about the “health hazard of mold and asbestos” within their apartment and received no response. According to Neuhausen, the responsiveness of housing varies depending on the issue; with regards to a clogged toilet, it took housing “five hours to respond” however, when it came to their broken AC unit, “it took two months for [housing] to resolve our issues,” and the issues with their ceiling “have never been resolved.”

George Herrera, another resident of Bannockburn, explained the multiple inconveniences he has experienced while living in Bannockburn for the past three years. The “biggest” problem he faced with housing was in regards to the air conditioning (AC) unit in his apartment. For over a month in “the 90 degree heat” of summer, Herrera explained how he went back and forth with housing begging them to fix his AC unit. 

In an email to housing Herrera pleaded, “Please save me, the AC does not cool anything. My room gets up to 90 degrees by noon and stays like that until 3 a.m. I am begging you to fix this. I have been living in this oven for four days. Please believe me. This is the third time I am asking for this repair. It blows lukewarm air all day, resulting in the sauna I call home. Please help.”

Picture Courtesy of George Herrera / Bannockburn Resident

Alleging he received no response from housing, a week later he sent a follow up email: “It has been two-weeks that I have had to suffer with no AC. I again beg you to fix the air conditioning. On Friday it will be around 90 degrees and I fear I will not make it through the day. Please fix the AC, even on cool days it stays a warm 85 degrees in my room and Friday it will be even hotter … Please do not make me wait another week, I have been more than patient, I just want my AC fixed so I do not boil while I sleep.” 

Finally, after a month, housing responded to his pleas for AC. UCR Housing Services sent out a mass email to Bannockburn residents declaring that there was a “cooling issue with the chilled water system.” Herrera explained that after a month of requests, his AC worked for one day before breaking down again. Ever since, Herrera and every other Bannockburn resident was provided with a portable AC unit in their rooms. 

Although Bannockburn is advertised to have a heater, the heater in Herrera’s apartment also does not work properly. He stated that “all of the climate control in my apartment is portable.” 

These ongoing issues within their housing complex have caused extreme distress to students living in Bannockburn. Neuhausen explained how she knows “asbestos can cause cancer,” and when she found out about all the issues in her apartment she “freaked out” and felt “really gross.”  She continued, “It’s made me more stressed out and I try not to think about it … how am I supposed to protect myself if I am living in asbestos?”

Neuhausen is not confident that these issues will be resolved in the future. She feels that “housing is waiting for the whole building to fall down, and they would rather spend money on new projects like North District” instead of maintaining their current housing. Neuhausen emphasized that this is not just a Bannockburn issue; “People living in Falkirk are subjected to similar poor living conditions.” 

Neuhausen emphasized that she “can’t afford to live anywhere else. I would rather live somewhere else or commute but that’s not an option for me … I felt forced to renew my lease because I would not be [able to secure] housing.”

Similar to other Bannockburn residents, Johnson “can’t afford to live anywhere else, so [she has] just kinda learned to live with these issues.” She continued, “If [housing] is willing to put so much money into other projects on campus, then they can afford” to fix the issues that she and other Bannockburn residents are experiencing. 

UCR Housing and administration were contacted in regards to the claims made in this article. No response was received by publication on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.