The U’s gated communities

Expensive luxury apartment complexes fail to give students an affordable place to live.

Cassandra Sundaram

We’re all broke college students; this is not news to anyone, especially to those who are once again running in the yearly sprint to figure out living arrangements for next year. Finding a new place to live always seems like a hassle; it’s nearly impossible to find a perfect compromise between price and location. And so, annually, we hear one of the most popular and echoed complaints at the University of Minnesota: There are not enough affordable places for students to live on campus.
Affordable options are declining, and luxury is on the rise. With several new upscale apartment buildings being built around the University, one would almost think that students don’t realize their average student debt on graduation day is around $20,000.
Luxury apartments are too expensive, unnecessary and separate different groups of people at the University. Clique-iness and social status seem a part of lease requirements for some of these apartments, intentionally or not.
Let’s face it; certain people are drawn to certain amenities. Who wouldn’t want a TV in their bathroom or a tanning booth in their lobby? These features do exist, and certain students inexplicably swarm to them like College of Sscience and Engineering students to the Career Fair. If people want to shell out cash for these amenities, so be it. I get it. But intentionally creating an environment that makes it hard for the majority of students to find adequate and reasonably priced housing is unacceptable.
Whether they acknowledge it or don’t, apartments indirectly say, with the amenities listed on their websites and their pricing, the kind of applicant they are looking to attract. And a public-living environment, even if it’s in a luxury apartment, should not be comparable to living in a sorority or fraternity. Though apartments are reluctant to give out demographic information, I think the average student can speculate pretty accurately about the diversity in these complexes. Luxury living spaces aren’t an issue just because they are more expensive; the atmosphere they create in a college setting is not community oriented. They can serve as social dividers among University students.
Maybe I have a different view of what luxury is. To me, luxury is being able to live in a comfortable environment, without the worry of fitting in a certain demographic or not being able to study or sleep in peace and quiet.
There are an overwhelming number of students on campus who can’t afford to pay for the “luxury” of nightly partying. I don’t need a hot tub available to me 24 hours a day, I need an inexpensive place to live that is well-built, close to campus, safe and gives me the freedom to sleep, study and socialize as I please.
With stringent regulations on how many unrelated people can live in certain rental houses near campus, the options for students wanting a safe and convenient location on a college budget are dwindling. We need cheaper and better living alternatives for our more than 50,000 students. For many students, just being able to go to college is a luxury — those who are here on scholarship or are first-generation degree seekers don’t take their investment for granted and neither should businesses that serve the University community. Luxury isn’t being able to watch “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” while you relieve yourself, it’s being able to live and learn in comfort and affordability.

Cassandra Sundaram welcomes comments at [email protected]