Housing organization adds two affordable student co-ops

Erin Madsen

Students caught in the housing crunch at the University will have a better chance of securing affordable housing now that a local non-profit organization is offering more cooperative living.
Since January 2000, Riverton Community Housing, which manages Dinkytown’s Chateau and Marcy Park cooperatives, has purchased two more apartment complexes that will become leasehold cooperatives on Nov. 1.
RCH’s executive director, Gary Ellis, said high student demand for affordable housing close to campus encouraged the non-profit organization to purchase two additional apartment buildings during the last year.
The Franklin Cooperative in the Seward neighborhood and the Marshall Cooperative in Dinkytown, are currently housing students in 200 units, at what Ellis said is market rent, until the properties become leaseholds.
Since the newly acquired cooperatives are not yet leaseholds, tenants are paying higher rent than tenants at Chateau and Marcy Park.
Lowered rent and proximity to campus are just two of the benefits of cooperative living, says Valerie Aas, RCH’s Communication Specialist.
In addition, each cooperative has a board of directors that is made up of tenants. “This allows (renters) to have control over how the building is run,” Aas said.
Ellis said tenants participating on the boards are also adding experience to their resumes. “They have the opportunity to learn governance, and those are skills you are going to take with you,” he said.
While some students are actively involved with these boards, others are attracted to different cooperative benefits.
Chris Root, a mechanical engineering senior, has lived at the Chateau for two-and-a-half years. He said he appreciates the apartments’ proximity to campus, the low rent, and the consolidation of bills.
“Everything is included in one rent payment, so there’s no separate bills,” Root said.
A College of Education and Human Development graduate student, Yoon Yong, said she was drawn to the Dinkytown cooperative from her South Minneapolis home for two reasons.
“Prices are reasonable and I don’t have a car,” Yong said.
The Chateau began housing students in the 1960s and in 1991 it became what Ellis refers to as, “a type of cooperative that allows a group of people — by having a long-term lease with a non-profit — to create a homestead, which has a much more favorable property tax.” This enabled the Chateau to reduce and then stabilize rent for tenants.
After creating the 127-unit Chateau as the non-profit’s first cooperative, the apartments’ popularity lead to the 1995 development of RCH’s second cooperative, Marcy Park.
Also in Dinkytown, Marcy Park Cooperative provides 57 rental units for students under the same cooperative principals as the Chateau, which maintains affordable rent.
According to Ellis, RCH will concentrate energies on Franklin and Marshall cooperatives for the next one to two years.
Following that, the organization will continue searching for prospective student housing developments around campus.
“(Students) are the huge market out there that are unserved,” Ellis said.

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