Group addresses quality and cost of area housing

Raiza Beltran

With increasing rental rates in Minneapolis and a low number of vacancies available for residents, members of the Activist Student Collective are justifiably irate.
Group members handed out fliers Tuesday outside Willey Hall, with contact information of various community groups involved with housing issues.
Collective member Robert Wood, a history junior, said affordable housing is needed by University students and Minneapolis residents in general.
“Having lived near the (Dinkytown) area, there’s a lot of housing that is badly maintained. They don’t know their rights as renters and the courses they can take,” Wood said.
The collective focuses on both student housing concerns and housing shortages citywide.
“It affects all of us,” said Jon Collins, a political science sophomore and member of the collective.
The vacancy rates in the surrounding University communities have been dropping steadily during the first half of the 1990s, from 11.2 percent in 1991 to 8.3 percent in 1995, according to the Minneapolis Planning Department documents.
The apartment vacancy rate for the entire city was 9.3 percent the same year.
According to the group’s handout, the Dinkytown, Como and Seward neighborhoods are among the most expensive and poorly maintained properties in the metro area.
In 1998, the condition of more than 30 percent of all housing units in the Marcy-Holmes area were considered below city average. The Como neighborhood was rated at less than 15 percent and Seward at less than 20 percent.
An average rating indicated considerable deferred maintenance and minor structural damage to the building’s foundation, walls and roof that require repair.
Institute of Technology sophomore Kristel Fesler, currently residing in Comstock Hall, said she is having a tough time looking for decent housing for next year.
“It’s hard to find something that’s even worth the money,” Fesler said, adding she has found places that were nearly condemned.
According to published city documents, an average rent for a one-bedroom apartment rose from $387 in 1993 to $502 in 1998.
“In a market like this, I think the landlords have enough revenue to keep (residences) up instead of letting them go to crap,” Fesler said.
The initiative has received positive feedback, said Miriam Eason, a College of Liberal Arts freshman and collective member.
“A lot of people are concerned about rising costs,” Eason said.
The collective plans to establish a renters’ union and set up a listserv to engage students in a dialogue of the problems and possible solutions to finding affordable housing.
“We hope the listserv starts speaking for themselves,” said Collins. “From there they can generate ideas.”

Raiza Beltran covers student life and student government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3225.