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UMN students navigate commuting, cost and social issues while waiting to move into Identity

UMN students struggle with housing issues due to Identity Dinkytown not being ready.
Image by Justine Vance
Identity announced its apartments will not be finished by the expected fall move-in date for students in the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minn., on Wednesday, August 2, 2023.

University of Minnesota students have faced roadblocks and experienced stress while waiting to move into Identity Dinkytown. 

Identity Dinkytown apartment complex managers told tenants they would be able to move in at the end of August. However, a month after the original move-in day, the building is still not ready. Students were given the option to find their own housing or have Identity provide housing for them. 

Annika Attiah, in her last semester at the University, is living with her boyfriend in a house in Como while she waits to move into Identity.

Annika Attiah. Photo courtesy of Attiah.

“I still feel like an imposition because it’s not like I signed the lease and they were planning on living with me,” Attiah said. 

She shares a car with her brother that she uses to get to class, work and the University Recreation and Wellness Center. Each day is different for her: she has class two days a week but also works a full-time job. 

When Attiah has class on West Bank, she drives from her boyfriend’s house and has to find a place on campus to park. On average, she said parking on campus costs her $6 to $10. If she was living at Identity,  she would have been able to take the bus which would save her time and money. 

Attiah goes to the gym every day and was excited to have a gym at Identity, but since it’s not ready and being a part-time student, Attiah paid for a RecWell membership. 

“I understand it’s their policy, but I wouldn’t have had to pay for that if the two-story, 24-hour gym that was promised at Identity would have been open,” Attiah said. 

Attiah said she loves going out with her friends but not having housing in Dinkytown has prevented her from fully enjoying nights out. Without her apartment, Attiah has had to sleep on her friends’ couches, pay for Ubers and limit her number of drinks when she knows she will drive herself back to the house. 

Attiah added all the anxiety she has been experiencing comes from her not feeling settled and not trusting Identity or having communication from them. 

“It’s been tough feeling this way because I like to feel in control of situations and right now it’s in the hands of Identity who has been pretty sketchy so far,” Attiah said.

Ellyse Ferlauto is a fourth-year at the University who is going to be living with Attiah in Identity. Ferlauto commutes to campus from her family’s home in Eden Prairie and nannies part-time for a family who lives in Marcy Holmes, she said. 

Ellyse Ferlauto. Photo courtesy of Ferlauto.

Ferlauto said her nannying shift starts at 7:45 a.m., which is in the middle of rush-hour traffic, so she leaves her house at 6:45 a.m. Every day, she packs her lunch, snacks, gym clothes and whatever else she will need throughout the day. 

“I have to plan everything to a T,” Ferlauto said. 

Ferlauto drives 30 minutes to and from school almost everyday. Living at home has also made studying more difficult for Ferlauto.

“Dad’s watching the football game, mom’s in the kitchen and the dog is barking, which makes it hard to focus,” Ferlauto said. 

Sen. Lindsey Port, chair of the Housing and Homelessness Prevention Committee, said she lived in Dinkytown when she was a student and sympathizes with students who showed up to their first week of campus with an unsure living situation. 

“I know how stressful college is and to put that on these students and to expect them to be able to respond to this obviously powerful company felt really unfair,” Port said. 

Port said hearing the students’ testimonies on Sept. 13 highlighted the imbalance of power between tenants and landlords. Hearing about the amount of students who had tried to break their leases with Identity shocked her, she said. 

Port added she is grateful to the students who told their story and brought the issues to the attention of the state. 

“We don’t get to move in on things like this without people who are willing to share their stories,” Port said. “That is a huge part of how legislation actually gets passed.” 

Attiah and Ferlauto are set to move into Identity on Sept. 29. Attiah said she has hope everything will work out and she will finally be able to move in. 

“For us, we just want to live together, we want to live on campus and we want to be able to celebrate homecoming and all those other events together,” Attiah said.

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