September 9th, 2014 | Miller Advisors

Rent hikes magnify high cost of a uw education

University of Washington junior Audrey Wu has been looking for an apartment near campus for two months now. But with two weeks left before classes begin, she’s starting to despair finding a place to live.

Many of the one-bedrooms in the University District are going for $1,200 to $1,500 a month. “I’m looking at (apartment ads) and I’m saying, this is not student housing,” WU said. “Students can’t afford to dish this out.”

City Councilwoman Sally Clark remembers renting a cheap–although somewhat roach-infested–apartment in the U-District when she was a student there in the 1980s. She fears the new apartments clustering around the light rail station on Brooklyn will be too expensive for students.

“More students are competing with young professionals, who have more money to spend,” she said. Clark met with students over the summer, and said they made a good case for being included in the housing strategic plan.

The city is working on a new neighborhood plan that will guide land use in the University District over the coming years. The U District Urban Design Framework could include increased height and density in the core of the neighborhood.

Students released an open letter to city leadership on Thursday, asking that the council authorize the formation a student housing affordability task force to advise the city’s Department of Planning and Development; to place a UW student representative on the mayor’s housing affordability task force; and to work with developers to set aside funding for student-eligible affordable housing.

A spokesman for Mayor Ed Murray said the mayor plans to include a student from one of the city’s colleges or universities on its housing advisory committee.┬áIn the letter, students said if they aren’t included in University District planning, they’ll “either be displaced or driven further into debt by the rezoning…its is of great concern to us when proposed plans to develop the University District threaten to increase the cost burden for students already struggling to access the University.”

Said Wright-Pettibone: “We’re already at the tipping point of what we can afford.”

Students say it’s still possible to find a room near Greek Row, in an old house that’s been cut into a bunch of smaller units, for $500 to $800 a month. The quarters are guaranteed to be cramped, the place in need of repair, and the house might not meet city codes.

But it’s cheap.

Wu, the UW junior who is looking for a place to live, has found some small apartments for as low as $800, but they seem overpriced for what they offer. In one, for example, the apartment consists of a small room and a bathroom; the kitchen is shared. Others are dirty or in a poor state of repair.

If she can’t find anything, Wu plans to move back home with her parents in Kenmore and either drive or take the bus to school.

Meanwhile, demand is also up for university-owned housing.

The UW’s housing office had an 8 percent increase in requests for on-campus housing for the coming school year. As a result, it will create 165 new triple rooms in the residence halls to accommodate the students who arrive on campus for the start of fall quarter classes, which begin Sept. 24. The university will be housing 802 more students than the residence halls and apartments were built to accommodate.

The upside? Triples are relatively cheap. A triple in McCarty Hall will cost the equivalent of about $520 a month.

UW student government leaders say they plan to reach out to student leaders at the area’s other schools–including Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University and the community colleges.

Wright-Pettibone said students have long lobbied to the legislature to keep tuition costs down. Now, they’re realizing they must talk to City Hall, too, to try to keep the housing part of the college-cost equation from rising too much.

“We shouldn’t be forced to take out a loan for tuition, and a loan for housing,” he said. “There has to be a component of being able to work our way through school again.”

Source: Katherine Long, Seattle Times higher education supporter
Image: Avalon Communities, Ava U-District

This information is general in nature, is not a complete statement for making an investment decision, and is not a recommendation or a solicitation to buy or sell any security. Investments and strategies mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. Past performance may not be indicative of future results.