The University’s new student-housing focus

There was once a time when students could find decent rooms to rent in private houses on campus. Now, the general idea of student housing is changing for the worse.
All reports indicate that houses around the University are crumbling, and rents are climbing. Meanwhile, the landscape is shifting away from traditional houses to new, higher-density apartments. The University tries to sell land to developers based on whether their idea of housing is conducive to student’s lives.
“The properties in the Motley neighborhood didn’t conform to the University mission,” stated the Board of Regents Facilities Committee. The board did not elaborate on how the mission statement applies specifically to housing. After inspection, the houses were deemed unfit for renovation, and the property was sold to Dinnaken Properties for development. Dinnaken tore down the existing blocks and constructed its own apartments.
Before Dinnaken built Argyle House, the neighborhood block could have housed 60 students. Argyle boasts 85 units and 372 residents.
“The land use is much better. There are more students who live in the area now,” said Yvonne Grosulak, vice-president of Dinnaken Properties. Now Dinnaken plans to expand.
The reconstruction of the Motley neighborhood characterizes a broad and ongoing change in student housing. Both private and University housing developments are trying to provide a seamless transition from dorm life to an apartment. They accomplish this partly by outfitting each building with amenities such as computer labs, exercise rooms, study halls and community advisers.
The luxurious GrandMarc — which will soon be completed on the West Bank — plans to charge an average of $537 per bedroom. In addition to a place to sleep, GrandMarc will provide a 24-hour business center, a health club, private bathrooms and dens.
Some undergraduate and graduate students voiced concerns regarding the prices of these newer housing developments. But in the current market, building owners are plagued by high rental-property taxes, making these once exorbitant costs an inevitable result. Rent in Minneapolis rose 29 percent last year alone. Many owners of dilapidated campus housing now charge considerably more. Without federal or state relief — which politicians and experts predict is far off — students are stuck with high rental costs.
But this does not permit the University to select and endorse private developers based on their ability to enrich students’ lives through expensive amenities. The Board of Regents should consider whether working extra hours to pay the rent is conducive to finding adequate study time. Or is the University catering only to students dependent on their parents?
Despite what developers believe, many students do not find dorm rooms — with all of their added services — affordable. But without federal and state help to curb the housing crisis, the concept of student housing on campus will change.
Thankfully, the University is sensitive to concerns for privacy and is following the national trend toward building suite-style rooms. Riverbend Commons, for example, will consist entirely of suites.
The University must still consider, however, whether the added costs of paid community advisers, private exercise rooms and health clubs are worth the cost to students. Many upperclassmen are not looking for smooth transitions from the dorms or amenity-laden luxury lifestyles. Most are just looking for a room of their own.

David Gustafson is an editorial writer. He welcomes comments at [email protected]