When the university first acquired the land for the UCI campus, the UC Regents purchased additional land earmarked for future "University-related" functions. One of these functions was faculty and staff housing.
In 1969 a questionnaire was sent out to faculty and staff to determine the interest level in such a housing development. In the ensuing years the campus maintained a listing of off-campus housing for faculty and staff. In 1982 the first on-housing community, Las Lomas, was finally completed. Located on the southwest corner of the campus and designed by Fisher-Friedman Associates of San Francisco, Las Lomas offered two- and three-bedroom apartments for rent. Several furnished units were set aside for visiting faculty.
In 1984 the creation of the Irvine Campus Housing Authority (ICHA) was approved by the Regents. Its purpose was to develop affordable housing for faculty and staff at UCI.
The first phase of construction of a new residential neighborhood was completed in 1986 in the newly-named University Hills. Designed by Richardson Nagy Martin and built by the J.M. Peters Company, it is located above the Las Lomas apartments. Eighty-one homes were made available for sale to faculty and staff, 28 of which were town homes ranging in size from 950 to 1400 square feet. Fifty-three were detached houses ranging from 1500 to 2800 square feet. In addition, 13 lots were made available to buyers who wished to custom build their own homes.
Over the next several years, University Hills was a combination of residential neighborhood and construction zone as more residences were built. Also added were community swimming pools, playgrounds, ball fields and a Montessori school. Apartments, condominiums and homes were available in size ranging from 800 to 2900 square feet. Streets were named after notable figures in the arts and sciences such as Louisa May Alcott and Gregor Johann Mendel.
Eligibility for University Hills residence is based on a priority system:
As of 2005, expansion of University Hills continues on the southwest portion of the campus. Over the years it has become a thriving neighborhood for members of the UCI community and an important recruitment tool.