During the upcoming search for off-campus housing, some students might be tempted by the lower rates in Ypsilanti to make the move east. But some who live there warn that the lower prices are not always worth it.

Dave Mekelburg
Kinesiology senior Anjani Mahabir pays only $350 a month for half of a two-bedroom Ypsilanti apartment. She likes the apartment but not the drive to campus. (BENJI DELL/Daily)

Still, rent in Ypsilanti can often be significantly lower than in Ann Arbor.

The lower cost of living is a trade-off for long daily commutes and social isolation, they say.

LSA junior Kelly Kieft said financial concerns were influential in her decision to live in Ypsilanti rather than Ann Arbor. She said that two years ago she paid approximately $230 a month, including most utilities, to share a two-bedroom apartment with two friends.

On making the move to Ypsilanti, Kieft advises other students, “Only do it if you have to.”

Dwight Amador, a broker at Hallmark Appraisal, a company that appraises real estate in Southeast Michigan, said Ypsilanti’s housing is typically 10 to 15 percent cheaper than Ann Arbor’s.

According to a survey of average rental rates released yesterday by University Housing’s off-campus housing office, the average rent for a two-bedroom unit is $1,117.

The survey was compiled using data reported by landlords registered with the office. The majority of properties included in the survey are in Ann Arbor, but the data also includes landlords with properties in nearby cities.

Brian Evans, a realtor in Washtenaw County, said home prices are higher in Ann Arbor because the city has more jobs, a higher household income and a better public school system.

Amador pointed to different factors than Evans. Amador said the price difference is due to the fact that Ann Arbor’s economy is more diversified than the surrounding cities like Ypsilanti, and because of this Ann Arbor is less affected by the state’s economic troubles.

Amador also attributed the price difference to Eastern Michigan University’s declining enrollment rate. The school’s enrollment rate has steadily declined from 2002 to 2006 by about 7 percent.

Amador said this decline creates a surplus of Ypsilanti housing, which translates to savings for prospective tenants. The longer units go unoccupied, the more likely landlords are to cut rental rates, he said.

Amador said living in Ypsilanti might be a good option for students, adding that he doesn’t think commuting would be difficult because of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s bus system.

Kieft, who currently lives in Ypsilanti with her parents, said she was frustrated with commuting.

Kieft used to ride a city bus 40 minutes one way to get to class daily. She said she often read for class on the bus to pass the time.

Now she drives to campus, but she said it is not much better because she has to find a parking spot, usually a 20-minute walk away.

“I told myself I’m not going to force myself to exercise because I usually walk about an hour a day,” she joked. “I’m not looking forward to the winter — I may have to change my system.”

Study abroad plans influenced Kinesiology senior Anjani Mahabir to live in Ypsilanti this semester before going to Prague in January.

“Knowing that I would only be here for a semester, I didn’t want to sign a lease,” she said. “That automatically reduced the options I had greatly.”

Mahabir found her apartment after searching Craigslist.com and Facebook.com’s Marketplace. She said she pays $350 a month for her half of a two-bedroom apartment in a complex with a pool, weight room and computer lab. Her rent also includes utilities.

Mahabir said she likes her apartment but said she does not enjoy the daily drive to campus. She said she usually gives herself half an hour to commute to campus. Once in Ann Arbor, she parks at a friend’s apartment parking lot and then takes the Commuter North bus to campus.

She also does not enjoy being on campus all day.

“Now I’m gone all day until 11 (p.m.) sometimes,” she said. “I feel like I’m trapped on campus a lot of the time because there are definitely times that I would like to leave, but I just can’t.”

In addition, Mahabir said living in Ypsilanti could hurt her social life.

“If people are really looking to be really involved on campus or they want to be around their friends all the time, I guess you need to make the sacrifice and pay a little bit more,” she said. “For me it doesn’t matter too much because it’s my fifth year, and most of my friends have already graduated.”

– Daily News Editor Chris Herring contributed to this report.

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