Last month, the Ann Arbor City Planning Commission approved something this campus is in short supply of: new student housing. The privately-owned developer Integroup Realty Trust is proposing a new complex to be built adjacent to North Campus. Currently named North Quad, the complex will have 900 beds and is expected to open by the fall of 2004 if final approval is granted by the City Council early next year.

Even as this proposed development moves forward, it would behoove Integroup to keep in mind the realities of campus housing – it is nearly always overpriced and often of substandard quality. At the moment, Integroup has a good track record in this area; rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs for $483 in the East Lansing development. If Integroup wants to endear itself to students, it should publicly make a long-term commitment to keeping rent for its units down while keeping quality up – prices such as East Lansing’s should not be temporary.

By doing so, not only will Integroup be saving students sorely-needed money, but it will also be setting a standard that other landlords will have to follow if they wish to remain competitive. Furthermore, Integroup ought to follow the example set by University Housing, whose full-time workers are unionized. Integroup must treat its workers like it should treat its tenants with respect and professionalism, and not as potential subjects of a fleecing.

If there is one clear flaw in the proposed apartment complex, it lies in the name,”North Quad.” The word “Quad” unofficially belongs to University residence halls on this campus; having it grace any other kind of building is an affront to the University’s tradition. More importantly, the facility’s proposed moniker could mislead prospective residents into believing that the University runs the development. Integroup needs to find another name for its development – by doing so Integroup will keep itself in the good graces of students on campus.

The University administration needs to learn from housing developments like Integroup’s. There is a clear demand for affordable housing on campus, and Integroup is pursuing this market. The University needs to reclaim leadership in this area and get working on student life issues. The President’s Commission on the Undergraduate Experience’s report , released in 2001, made several ambitious proposals, including both more residence halls as well as expanding the sense of community within them. At the moment, the administration says it wants to complete yet one more study before taking action and moving on its past proposals. However, the University has researching this topic for years – it is time for the administration to stop talking and start acting. The state of student housing on campus is reaching a critical point, and no one is in a better position than the University to address the shortage.

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