Students fight for a space to live

Lower vacancy rates mean students end up living further away.

Megan Nicolai

The University of Minnesota may be the second-largest Big Ten school, but it has another distinction as well âÄî the third smallest on-campus housing program.

Because of this, many students seek an off-campus apartment after freshman year. But recent studies of the real estate market have shown they may have a little more competition for apartment space than before.

A survey released last August from GVA Marquette Advisors, a real estate analysis and consulting company, showed a vacancy rate of about 4.2 percent in the metro area for 2010, which is lower than historical numbers and reflects what economists expect to be an increasing number of renters across the country. A larger percentage of the population has begun renting due to an economy in which gaining the financing for buying a home or condo is becoming more difficult.

While demand for apartments has increased citywide, areas close to campus like Dinkytown will likely stay mostly inhabited by University students. However, those apartments are often swept off the market quickly, said Mannix Clark, associate director of University Housing and Residential Life.

Though most of the competition for apartments adjacent to campus is among students, the number of possible admitted undergraduates to the University may increase and will foster greater demand for spaces, said Mary Bujold, president of the real estate research and consulting company Maxfield Research.

Some students may be forced to find housing in areas not necessarily geared toward their demographic, such as Northeast or downtown Minneapolis. Then, theyâÄôd be competing with a larger group of potential renters looking for space.

Even now, apartment complexes in Dinkytown typically aimed at attracting students have begun to attract non-student
applicants.

“WeâÄôve definitely seen an increase in calls from non-students,” said Scott Anderson, the director of residential management with Doran Companies. Doran developed the recent Sydney Hall Residences and Dinkydome Lofts apartments.

Doran is also breaking ground on a 102-unit apartment complex, 412 Lofts, which is slated for completion this summer and is accepting leasing applications. The project is not the only real estate development to emerge in the area in recent years, but many of the newer apartment complexes may be out of many studentsâÄô price ranges.

“Most of the new development has been aimed at the higher end of the rent spectrum,” Bujold said. “There might still be increased competition for lower-rent spectrums.”

Living far off-campus can raise other issues for students as well. Many leasers donâÄôt offer the flexible 3- or 6-month leases that many buildings near the University have, so students with study abroad plans must either find a subleaser or find an alternative to apartment living.

“WeâÄôve seen more and more students choose to live with their parents for a semester,” Clark said. “TheyâÄôll commute to school over trying to find someone to take their apartment while theyâÄôre gone.”