U.Va. presents housing study to Charlottesville City Council

Perez says data helpful for possible on-Grounds housing expansion


Charlottesville City Council heard the results of a student housing survey conducted in 2013 Wednesday night. Gay Perez, associate dean of students and executive director of Housing and Residence Life, presented the results.

Perez said the future direction of student housing when she first arrived at the University was ambiguous, leading her to call on the department to start a conversation with students. The University hired consultants Brailsford & Dunlavey in 2012 to survey students, both undergraduate and graduate, about their priorities and preferences in housing.

“[The study aims to] make sure that our planning efforts match with the students needs and wants,” Perez said. “Over 88 percent of the students who responded reported moderately to very satisfied with their current living conditions … and this includes both on- and off-Grounds.”

Council member Kristin Szakos said this latest collaboration is part of an ongoing relationship between the University and the City in regards to housing development. The Planning and Coordination Council brings together representatives from the University, the City and Albemarle County, and meets on a quarterly basis to share information.

“I think it’s a really good thing for the University to be doing, and I really appreciate that it was reported in the Council meeting so the public can get a sense of what is helpful,” Szakos said.

Perez said an open line of communication with Council was an important way to ensure collaboration between the University and the city.

The presentation does not necessarily reflect immediate plans to develop either within the community or an initiative at the University, Szakos said, but rather intends to maintain communication between the parties.

The results of the study give the University administration as well as Charlottesville developers a sense of what is important to undergraduate and graduate students looking for housing.

“For undergraduate students, the number one factor in where they choose to live is proximity to central Grounds … [and the] second most important factor is their ability to choose who they live with,” Perez said. “Graduate students are much more cost conscious than it appears our undergraduate are.”

Though the University does not have definitive plans to build more on-Grounds housing, Perez said the study is useful for determining student priorities and preferences.

The results will also be helpful “if there comes a point in time when the University decides it needs to build upper class housing,” Perez said.

The information gathered in the survey is also useful for Council, city management and neighborhood development, Szakos said, as interactions between the students and neighboring Charlottesville residents can cause tensions.

The large number of students seeking housing “pushes families out,” and “changes the tone of the neighborhoods,” Szakos said. “There’s been a long-standing concern in the community … that the impact of having so many students in the community really drives up housing prices.”

Szakos said one of the goals of open communication between the University community and greater Charlottesville on the subject is to address this issue.

Published March 6, 2014 in FP test, News

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