BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published January 9, 2012
Affordable student housing is becoming an increasingly serious problem on campus as a surprising number of high-rise luxury apartments now dominate Ann Arbor's skyline. With expensive amenities like hot tubs and large televisions offered by such apartment buildings, students are asked to pay considerably high rent prices, some of which exceed $1,000 a month per person. These prices are a result of new complexes built close to Central Campus, and force students who don’t wish to reside in University Housing farther from campus. The University and the city of Ann Arbor must work together to attract and create affordable housing options for all students.
The University announced in November that the Baits I Residence Hall on North Campus will permanently close after the winter semester due to serious structural damage. East Quad Residence Hall will close for renovations for the next school year. Freshmen and sophomores will also now take precedent over upperclassmen in choosing rooms in the residence halls. These decisions, coupled with the city of Ann Arbor’s approval of a number of lavish apartment complexes, such as Zaragon West on Thompson, Landmark on S. University and most recently, The Varsity on Church St., are limiting the number of affordable housing options available to students.
It’s becoming nearly impossible for the majority of underclassmen to find housing that is affordable, comfortable and close to campus. The campus-housing deficit is spiraling out of control. Students are stressed due to the limited options they have to find reasonably priced lodging. Increasing prices and a system that encourages predatory landlords are not beneficial to students. In order to secure reasonably priced housing for the following school year, students are forced to engage in an insane housing rush that begins as early as October and gets earlier each year as students hope to get a head start on the search.
New apartment complexes are popping up close to Central Campus. These new buildings, however, come with expensive amenities and high price tags. Since many students pay or contribute to their own rent, it’s not practical to design new housing that comes with unneeded features, which drive up rent considerably. Instead of building Landmark, more affordable housing — more along the lines of University Towers — should be built. Apartments need to be designed more practically, keeping in mind that many of their occupants will be college students on a budget.
The area surrounding Central Campus is small, but the University needs to actively seek developers who are willing to build affordable housing complexes on or near campus. Ann Arbor City Council is responsible for approving all high-rise buildings proposed by developers. Students are in desperate need of affordable housing, but nothing’s been done to mitigate the problem thus far. As the largest employer in Ann Arbor, the University has influence with the city. It should use that influence to work for all of its students and be sympathetic to all students' financial position.
Students deserve to live comfortably and affordably. They shouldn’t be forced to live in the residence halls, apartments or homes far from campus because expensive high-rises are the only other options. The University must have its students’ interests in mind when working with the city of Ann Arbor to provide more housing options.