As part of University President Jim Ryan’s 2030 Strategic Plan for the University, the Board of Visitors is considering expanding the current requirement for students to live on-Grounds for their first year to their first two years. This new requirement could impact students as well as the Charlottesville community, as a significant portion of Charlottesville’s housing demand provided by students could be reduced in its attempt to address concerns of University students expanding into local neighborhoods.
The 2030 Strategic Plan as a whole provides a roadmap for the future of the University as it enters its third century, by which it aims to be the best public university in the nation. University spokesperson Brian Coy confirmed in an email to The Cavalier Daily that a part of that plan includes increasing space in dorms on Grounds — some of which are currently under construction.
“The University is exploring many different ways to honor its commitment to increase the availability of housing in the Charlottesville and Albemarle region,” Coy said.
Implementing this policy is in part a piece of a larger effort by the University to provide students with opportunities to live and learn collaboratively in more diverse and inclusive communities, and would be following other schools — such as Duke University — that currently have similar arrangements which require students to live on campus all the way up to their third year.
The requirement also intends to alleviate the pressure that students may face finding housing off-Grounds, which for many students is already a stressful experience as they scramble to find housing options and sign leases as early as September in their first year.
Second-year College student Chrissy Baker currently lives off-Grounds after spending her first year in dorms. In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Baker said she thinks living on and off-Grounds both have their benefits. While living on Grounds allowed her to be more connected with other first years and provided more opportunities to meet other students, she chose to live off-Grounds her second year for the freedom and amenities a 12-month lease could provide.
“I feel like I have more freedom living in an apartment off Grounds than I did living in a dorm, and I am able to stay and work in Charlottesville over the summer if I wanted to … but some cons to living off Grounds is that it’s a little harder to meet other students and I have more responsibilities than I did living in a dorm,” Baker said.
Baker said that having the option to live off Grounds for second years is valuable because it allows students more flexibility in finding housing that meets their specific needs and circumstances — such as price range, location priorities and social life preferences — and taking that opportunity away could be detrimental to students.
Rick Jones, vice-chairman of the property management firm Management Services Corporation — which manages the largest selection of housing in Charlottesville and Albemarle County and has been in operation since 1973 — is also opposed to the University’s potential requirement due to how it would negatively impact the Charlottesville real estate market. Jones said that undergraduate students make up a large portion of demand for local housing and a class of students not being able to live off-Grounds would mean less business on the end of property managers.
“For the owners, when there is far less demand, then you are probably going to have higher vacancies and lower rents… then your income goes down,” Jones said.
According to Jones, being given the option to live off-Grounds would be beneficial for second years more flexibility in living accommodations. Living in housing unaffiliated with the University, Jones said, also helps students learn life skills such as paying rent on time and may be advantageous for credit history, which would be valuable for navigating the real estate market after graduation and cannot be done in dorms.
“[Ryan] must feel that students are no longer mature enough to deal with the world on their own and that they need an additional year of care under the guidance and protection of the University,” Jones said. “It’s always been beneficial for students who have lived under the auspices of their families to go out into the world and begin to take care of themselves.”
However, while the requirement may negatively impact the local housing market on the business end, it may also be pragmatic for those concerned about students expanding into the Charlottesville community.
Adjunct Architecture Prof. Lyle Solla-Yates is chair of the Charlottesville Planning Commission, which manages future development in Charlottesville, and a member of the Charlottesville Plans Together steering committee, which additionally considers City planning with the goal of establishing equity and affordability. In an email statement to The Cavalier Daily, Solla-Yates highlighted the relevance of motor vehicles and storage to this conversation.
“Providing more space for students and/or their motor vehicles will reduce their footprint on area rental housing, especially in areas at great risk of displacement near the University like 10th and Page, which just saw major assessment increases,” Solla-Yates said.
Early responses to the lack of space for students’ motor vehicles date back to a 1958 student riot and made student motor vehicles a major topic in the 2003 rezoning process. The rallying cry, “Where are the cars going to go?” was used for restricting space for student motor vehicles and against allowing new off-Grounds housing for students near the University in new construction.
In addition to remediating the excess of motor vehicles in the City, requiring second years to live in dorms may also address concerns of gentrification in the Charlottesville community, such as Black residents being disproportionately displaced from their neighborhoods to accommodate an increasing student population and their demand for space in the private housing sector.
Solla-Yates said many in the Charlottesville community feel new homes should not be allowed in the City because they will be taken by students, while others think new homes should be permitted to prevent existing homes from being taken by students.
“We have seen some evidence in recent years from schools’ enrollment that allowing new private student housing changes where students live — with them moving to the new options and making space for local families to move back into older neighborhoods near the University,” Solla-Yates said.
Solla-Yates said that the requirement — which would provide more space for both students and their motor vehicles — would effectively address the regional equity and affordable housing challenges. However, he states that it would take time and money to make it happen.
“I think the University taking some ownership of that problem and working to benefit students and the broader community is a good thing and a benefit to the educational mission,” Solla-Yates said. “The University has shown it can house students and do it well, but it won't happen overnight and we have troubles now — families are hurting now and students are facing safe and affordable housing challenges.”