U co-ops are in high demand for student families

ABy Jeremy Repinski After living at the Como Student Community Cooperative for three years, Lipi Ramchandani and her husband will soon have to move out so one of the 400 families on the co-op’s waiting list can take its turn.

“We have no idea where to go,” Ramchandani said. “The rates here are the cheapest around.”

When Ramchandani’s husband receives his degree from the Department of Epidemiology next summer, the couple will no longer meet the criteria to remain in the housing complex, which is reserved for student families only.

The demand for family housing at the University has increased, but the Department of Housing and Residential Life does not have definite plans to build more right now, said Mannix Clark, associate director of Housing and Residential Life.

“We evaluate all student housing each year,” Clark said. “With all the new apartments being built and recent additions to residence halls, we have to see where the demand for housing is in the future.”

Average waiting list time at Como Student Community Cooperative is 18 months, compared to 12 months when the Ramchandanis moved in three years ago.

The co-op, located at Como and 27th Avenues, and Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative south of the St. Paul campus, have 824 total apartments to house University families. Both co-ops, although owned by the University, are managed by the residents who live there.

Residents can choose to be stockholders in the co-op, and in exchange are responsible for keeping common areas and laundry facilities clean. Stockholders are encouraged to participate in board meetings to govern the co-op, said Richard Shields, resident services director at Como Student Community Cooperative.

Stockholders also receive a share of the surplus at the end of the year, if there is one. Residents who opt not to be a stockholder must pay a $50 per month surcharge. Ramchandani, a stockholder, said everyone volunteers at the co-op.

Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative is also seeing its waiting list grow. Housing director Christine Gast said they have approximately 300 families waiting for placement.

Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative offers apartments ranging from $488 for a one-bedroom to $816 for a three-bedroom unit. At Como Student Community Cooperative, two-bedroom units run as low as $505.

Because co-ops are not-for-profit businesses, they can keep rent rates low, said Marcie Driver, community activities director at Como Student Community Cooperative. Also, the co-op does not pay property taxes because the University owns it, she said.

Both co-ops require tenants to be married couples, single parents or same-sex domestic partners with a University-issued health insurance card from Boynton Health Services.

One adult must be a University student and families can live in either of the two complexes for a maximum of seven years. The average length of stay at both co-ops is three years.

Longer stays at the Como Student Community Cooperative is one reason the waiting list is so long, Shields said.

“I think tuition is increasing, and aid is drying up so people need to make more money in addition to going to school,” Shields said.

Jeremy Repinski is a freelance writer.

The freelance editor welcomes comments at [email protected]