A housing extension
The University should pressure housing companies to push back the dates of signing leases
One of the most stressful times of year for students here at the University is in late September and October, when off-Grounds housing is open for leasing the following year. There is a frenzy of apartment and house tours, followed by signings, and every year the process seems to end a little earlier. As a first year, I signed a lease in a nice apartment near the Corner on October 12, when there were still plenty of apartments available throughout the area. This year, it felt like almost every apartment within 10 minutes of the Corner had been leased by October 12, and those that were available were either expensive or of low quality. The earliness of the process is becoming more and more frustrating each year, as the student body grows and demand for housing increases with it. And while I have been lucky both times I have gone through this process in finding a good place to live, I know a lot of people who are now scrambling. The speed and pressure this adds to decision-making is not good for the University or its students, and for that reason I think the administration should put pressure on the local housing companies to not open up apartments for leasing until at least the end of the semester.
The first and most obvious beneficiaries of this would be first years. Students arrive at the University in late August, and barely have time to settle in when apartments start to go in September. For those who want to live off Grounds, they are forced to find roommates who they hardly know willing to sign a lease on short notice. Moreover, students often are not familiar enough with the geography of Grounds to make an informed decision about where to live. This often leads to second-year apartments with mismatched roommates who have trouble living together, as well as students who are isolated from most of their friends just because they live too far away.
First years are also not able to make good comparisons between off- and on-Grounds housing because the application processes are separated by several months. Although upper-class housing has its flaws, for many people it is a better option. But the high-pressure system behind off-Grounds housing can lead them to signing and then regretting their decision months later. Having these two systems align more closely would allow students to make a side-by-side choice between the options, and ensure they had more flexibility of who to live with when half of their friends had not already been rushed into a decision.
Those who are already living off Grounds would benefit as well. Most second and third years have only been living in their houses or apartments for a few weeks when they are forced to decide whether or not to re-sign. If they decide to wait, their lease is often snatched up before they can make a decision, and they are forced to move and re-enter the entire process. Given several months to decide whether to re-sign, I’m sure significantly more upperclassmen would decide to remain in their current housing and not go through the hassle of another search. Even if a few members of an apartment decided to leave, the remaining members would at least have some warning and be able to find others to fill up the bedrooms without getting locked into a race against the clock. In all of these situations, simply having the time to stop and think would drastically reduce the amount of buyer’s remorse over housing in the University community.
Some might question why any of this matters to the University and what the administration could even do about it. I think the importance of having a happy student body that is content with its housing is pretty obvious. People spend more time in their places of residence than anywhere else, and the negativity of that experience will affect their performance in every other area, from academics to extracurriculars. And while the high demand for off-Grounds housing means that leasing companies have little economic incentive to change, that same high demand means they would almost certainly fill up their buildings no matter when the process begins. If the University could find some way to use its economic clout to make this change beneficial, then the companies would almost certainly adjust. I also think this change would benefit the landlord-tenant relationships in off-Grounds housing, as having tenants with more time to choose where and with whom they want to live would probably reduce the amount of damage to their properties. The administration has the power to make a huge difference in how the housing rush plays out each fall, and it is to the student’s, the leasing company’s and their own advantage to do so.
Forrest Brown is a Viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily.