The U’s voice in area development

The University hasn’t pushed for more housing, but it shouldn’t fail to advocate for its students.

Rapid housing development has changed the face of the University of Minnesota district as demand has soared, though the University hasn’t added much on-campus housing in recent years and doesn’t plan to. If the University wants to have a small hand in development, it should build a stronger voice to advocate for student residents.

The University district will have more than 2,300 additional beds in the fall, according to a Marquette Advisors report. Though the area is growing, the University offers the second-smallest amount of on-campus housing in the Big Ten at about 6,300 beds, the report said.

University housing associate director Mannix Clark told the Minnesota Daily that the University has had a “conservative” approach to building, and the University’s development process has been historically slow-going. While the University has expanded many current dorms, it built many dorms in the 1940s and 1950s and added campus apartments into the mix in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Despite a lack of additional housing, the University area has seen unprecedented growth over the past decade, along with neighboring parts of Minneapolis. The University’s housing is getting crowded and is nearly 99 percent full. To meet growing demand, the University will need more dorm space.

While we understand that the University may not want to get caught up in a dynamic market, that hasn’t stopped the University from getting involved in real estate, such as the joint venture to acquire the Days Inn Hotel near campus. If the University wants to have a greater hand in real estate, but not in housing, then it should be transparent about its priorities.

In his State of the University address earlier this year, President Eric Kaler called for a guiding University voice in local development. It’s clear that developers will build more and more to keep up with students. If the University wants to continue its conservative outlook toward housing, then a University voice to advocate for students is all the more promising — and necessary.