U students scurry in search of housing

by Brian Bakst

After three months of house hunting and 10 trips to the University’s housing service, University student Adam Patterson is still looking for a place to live this fall.
The College of Liberal Arts sophomore said he and his potential roommates were originally searching for a house, but now an apartment is not out of the question. “We’ll take anything now,” Patterson said.
Patterson isn’t the only University student scrambling to find a place to live before the University’s school year starts. He spent Monday afternoon at the Housing and Residential Life office with many other students. They were looking through three-ring binders with listings for apartments and houses and calling landlords to set up tours.
Sue Pilarski, manager of off-campus housing for housing services, said the housing office’s busiest period is between March and October and peaks in August. About 10,000 students, staff and faculty use the Housing and Residential Life center annually, she said, and half of them find housing through its listings.
The housing center, which is tucked between Comstock Hall and the East River Road parking ramp, is free to University students, staff or faculty. Landlords pay a yearly fee for a listing with the housing office.
The center offers listings that fit a variety of renter criteria, including the number of bedrooms and whether a place is near campus or downtown. There are also listings of people looking for roommates.
“Some people even have farms they want to rent out,” Pilarski said.
Some students say one of the major factors in finding a place to live is location.
Although Patterson said his priorities have changed since he started his search, he added he will avoid the Cedar-Riverside and Seward areas at all costs. He said the neighborhoods’ reputations for crime make them the last places he and his roommates want to live.
Community Crime Prevention/Safe, a division of the Minneapolis Police Department, reported 52 crimes ranging from burglary to assault in the Seward area during June. Marcy-Holmes had 40 crimes, Cedar-Riverside and Prospect Park had 25 crimes each, Como had 15 and Dinkytown had 12.
Third-year CLA students Adam Hoeg and Jamie Nashban said their bad experiences in the Marcy-Holmes district, where the two lived last year, has led them to look for a new place. Hoeg said the pair’s television set was stolen, and there were other thefts on the first floor of their apartment building.
Hoeg and Nashban admit they didn’t take their last apartment search seriously and are being more careful this time. “We took the first one that was available,” Hoeg said.
Hoeg said he would like to find an apartment in Dinkytown, but it must have off-street parking. “I’ve had my car towed three times this year.”
Former University student Dan Nerlien and fourth-year College of Natural Resources student Mike Murray have taken a somewhat different approach in their search: They are trying to stay away from Dinkytown and are not concerned about proximity.
“You pay for location and we don’t mind walking the extra mile,” Nerlien said.
Unlike Patterson, Nerlien and Murray have not yet given up their search for a house. The two said in unison that they don’t like apartments, adding that houses are less of a hassle for them because there are fewer neighbors to worry about.
Although Hoeg said the University’s service is useful, he wishes it would offer more help.
“It’s nice that they provide information,” Hoeg said, adding that the service would be better if it were more similar to some other apartment search services in the Twin Cities.
In addition to offering free listings to people looking for apartments, some apartment searching services provide consultants who find listings that match searchers’ desires. Some services also offer pictures of most of the apartments they list.
The University’s housing service doesn’t have photos of the housing it lists, but the listings offer information about each apartment or house. It is also not uncommon for landlords to specify their preferences in potential renters.
Pilarski said landlords who list with the University’s housing service usually want to rent to students, and landlords listing with other local housing services may not.