The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Off-Grounds housing sprawl may contribute to 'slumization' of city

College students move in, rents go up and middle-class families move out: A scene that has been played over in college towns across the nation and in the city of Charlottesville, according to Charlottesville Mayor Virginia Daugherty.

University students who seek off-Grounds housing are a potential cause of "slumization," a phenomenon that once affected cities like Chicago and New Haven, Conn., the hometowns of the University of Chicago and Yale, repectively, as a result of college students who can pay higher rents encroaching on formerly middle-class areas, Daugherty said.

Once the families move out, they are forced into a lower-rent area, causing a concentration of people in a small space, she said.

"The huge growth in the number of students living off campus has escalated the price of apartments and lower income people have a harder time finding an affordable apartment," she added. "You start having a slum. For example, Yale - and it used to be like that around the University of Chicago."

Although the inner cities of New Haven, and parts of Chicago - once considered some of the more dangerous cities in the nation - are in many ways different from Charlottesville, Daugherty said such "slumization" still is a major concern.

"We are having a problem of retaining our middle-income level. People look for housing outside the city, and those children leave our school system," she said.

She noted that factors beyond students' ability to pay higher rent also may contribute to middle-class flight from the city.

"Some students' style of living is different from family style of living; this has made neighborhoods less desirable," Daugherty said. "The city can't grow."

To remedy the situation, she said the University should offer more on-Grounds apartments for upperclassmen so students feel less need to move off Grounds.

University housing is "not 100 percent occupied. They need to sell on-Grounds housing, make it more attractive," she added.

According to the University's Office of Institutional Assessment & Studies, about 65 percent of the University's students reside in off-Grounds housing.

However, such high numbers are not because of any lack of on-Grounds housing, Housing Director Mark Doherty said.

"We offer reassignment for all students," Doherty said.

But these decisions are left up to the student, he said.

"We do not want to be in the position of controlling," he added.

And although City Councilman David Toscano said he sees the pattern of higher rents and middle-class families leaving Charlottesville, he does not attribute this solely to students living off Grounds.

"The University absolutely adds to the growth of Charlottesville," Toscano said.

He said students do not present the whole problem. Rather, increases in rent are the result of the laws of supply and demand.

"In any market where there are a lot of people competing for a small number of rooms, it tends to raise the rent," he added.

Some landlords who target University students also do not think students necessarily are to blame for higher rent.

Tammy Garrison, president of the Blue Ridge Apartment Council, said, "Anytime you have a college town, the prices will be higher. I don't think the students, per say, cause this."


Latest Podcast

From her love of Taylor Swift to a late-night Yik Yak post, Olivia Beam describes how Swifties at U.Va. was born. In this week's episode, Olivia details the thin line Swifties at U.Va. successfully walk to share their love of Taylor Swift while also fostering an inclusive and welcoming community.