New housing fills nonexistent needs

A lack of adequate housing has plagued the University in recent years. In order to capitalize on this problem, new apartment buildings such as GrandMarc and University Village were planned. Unfortunately, rather than opening doors to the majority of students, the new developments are accessible only to wealthier students.
The current housing situation around campus is pitiful. Only a few apartment buildings — Roy Wilkins, Seven Corners and The Chateau — provide quality housing at an affordable price. But these places have waiting lists that make a timely move nearly impossible. There are numerous houses and apartments around campus from which students can choose, but many of them fall short of acceptable living conditions. Problems such as woefully small bedrooms, exposed electrical wiring and broken locks are rampant. Yet, for places like these, students often pay more than $300 per person.
The new buildings do not come close to solving the problem. GrandMarc, which is expected to open next summer, will provide 188 units primarily for business and law school graduate students. The building hopes to include a 24-hour business center with computers and copy machines, and an exercise area. There will also be retail shops on the first floor for the tenants’ convenience. Each unit will have its own washer and dryer, and each bedroom will have its own bathroom. Rent will range from $400 to $500 per student for a four-bedroom unit. One-bedroom apartments will be even more costly.
In order to build these apartments, a University-owned parking lot and Washington Square — a much more modestly priced apartment complex — will be demolished. Rather than replace Washington Square with a larger, but still affordable, housing complex, current residents will be displaced to make room for wealthier students.
Another recently completed apartment complex is the University Village apartments on University Avenue. It offers a variety of size options. A fitness center and an indoor garage are available for each student’s use. Each apartment has a washer-dryer and walk-in closets. A two-bedroom unit costs about $1,100 per month.
The money and space used to build these complexes could have been better spent aiding the majority of students in search of decent, affordable housing. One area that could be improved is the stretch of Washington Avenue going toward downtown, where an apparent abundance of land could be developed into housing for University students. There are surely other options as well; to date, however, the University seems uninterested in pursuing them.
Investors need to realize that attempts to maximize profits could ultimately backfire. If housing is not provided for the middle class majority of students, enrollment at the University could begin to drop, at which point all housing units might have a hard time finding residents. A fully occupied, affordable building that would be more profitable than an exorbitantly priced one that sits empty.