Housing info to go online in January

by Jessica Hampton

The Housing and Residential Life office will be plunging into the Information Age this January when its housing postings and rental information go online.
The office will condense the collection of three-ring binders and housing postings into a World Wide Web site, allowing students to hunt for housing from the comfort of their own homes or the computer terminals in the housing office.
The technological step was taken primarily to help students who are searching for off-campus accommodations. About 15,000 students use the housing office a year, mostly in the beginning and end of each quarter.
Sue Pilarski, manager of off-campus housing at the office, said an online service won’t eliminate the need to see a space before signing a lease, but will give students a head start on contacting landlords and building caretakers.
Pilarski said this will especially help international students, who have a harder time searching for apartments while still living outside of the Twin Cities area.
“People that live out of town can’t really do things long distance,” Pilarski said.
According to a 1998 Family Housing Fund study, 68,900 renter households have annual incomes below $10,000 in the metropolitan area, but only 31,200 housing units with rents affordable at this income.
There is also currently less than a 2 percent vacancy rate in these sparse housing units.
Pilarski recognizes that the current housing shortages around the Twin Cities are “pretty pervasive,” but hopes the online service will help aid students and staff of the University in their quest for finding acceptable affordable housing.
According to an Apartment Search Profiles survey in July 1998, two- and three-bedroom apartments are the most difficult to come by in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas, as students compete with families for such rental properties.
“High property taxes are cited by landlord groups as the biggest barrier to affordable housing,” said Mark Schuller of the St. Paul Tenants Union.
Though the online service may be beneficial to students living out of town, some feel there are still issues that housing needs to work out on campus.
Eric Chi, a General College freshman still living in the Days Inn due to the residence hall housing shortage, said although he wouldn’t use the service, it might be handy for some students.
He felt that the Web site would be more convenient for students looking for off-campus housing, but Chi and others still residing in the hotel want to begin their academic careers incorporated in the residence halls community.
“A Web site is not going to put us in a dorm,” he said.