Average students deserve campus homes

In the coming years, students will have a wider variety of housing from which to choose than they have today. The West Bank is considering a 16-story apartment complex to be built by Education Environments which will house about 700 students. Dinnaken Properties, owner of a Stadium Village housing empire, is expanding with another apartment complex and several proposed townhouses. The Dunbar Development Corp. is working on yet another 700-occupant complex on the 2500 block of University Avenue. All these new choices, and yet few students will be able to take advantage of them.
No one will argue that the University does not have a housing problem. With perennial shortages of residence hall space and annually growing freshmen classes, the University is finally motivated to allow private developers to step in and put a finger in the dike.
Yet the housing currently under construction and in the planning stages share one thing in common: rents are high.
Greg Almquist, CEO of the Atlanta-based Education Environments and developer of the proposed West Bank apartment complex, insists that $700 for a one-bedroom unit would be feasible for students in the coming years. He touts the special facilities that will be available to renters, including a computer lab, several study rooms and a game room, as incentives for students to come up with the cash.
Likewise, Dunbar Development Corp. expects rents to range from $740 for a one-bedroom to $1,440 for a four-bedroom apartment in their new developments. Dinnaken Properties have a well-earned reputation for unaffordable rental rates, and its new projects in Stadium Village should be no exception. Most students will be quickly priced out of the new housing market.
Almquist has said that Education Environments will target Law School and Carlson school students. They hope that international students and those whose parents foot the bill will fill the remainder of the 700-plus units. Less wealthy students will find themselves in a position to rent the housing that the wealthier students will have left behind. Lucky them.
Anyone who lives near campus or has been to a party in Dinkytown, Stadium Village or Seven Corners has seen what passes for quality student housing. Rodents, roaches and fire hazards are par for the course. Prices will not drop with the introduction of new, high-end housing, and average students will find themselves no better off when wealthy students move into their luxurious new apartments and townhouses.
If the University remains unable to provide adequate housing for all freshmen — the Day’s Inn does not count — the administration must shoulder the responsibility of negotiating with local developers. Every new unit does not need to be aimed at students with fat pocketbooks.
Developers have expressed an interest in working with neighborhoods and the University. Recent meetings between Education Environment and Seven Corners neighborhood organizations demonstrate their sincerity. It is time for the University to become similarly involved. Clean affordable housing should be abundant around campus. The University is the best voice to make it clear that students deserve this as a right, not a luxury.