This post originally appeared as a column in The Diamondback
The rent for College Park housing is too damn high. You’ve heard it, you know it, and yet students persist in paying it.
Whether it’s Resident Life apartments, Capstone Management’s South Campus Commons and Courtyards, Asset Campus Housing’s University View, The Varsity of American Campus Communities or Domain College Park by UDR Inc., most of your absurd rent goes to a big corporation when you pay for an apartment on or near the campus. More than that, by filling those beds, and encouraging your friends to do so, you keep the cost of living high for everyone.
It might not have been your fault — you didn’t really think about the consequences of your decisions. You thought about whom you wanted to live with, and maybe the convenience of living in a furnished apartment near campus. Besides, what other options did you have? The frat house? A Knox Box? Ew.
Listen. Spread the word. Go live in an off-campus house. Go buy one, if you can. It’s the best possible deal, for your financial future and the health of the community. If you and your friends and parents can make a down payment and get credit (it’s out of reach for most people, unfortunately) then buy; otherwise, find a place to rent.
Renting a room in an off-campus house stops the flow of money to those billion-dollar corporations. It’s usually cheaper than the apartments, too. You don’t have to ride an elevator before going to bed. You get to walk around a neighborhood. You can become more connected to the community. Maybe, if enough students do it, we can discourage developers from pouring money into expensive high-rise apartments and bring living costs down for future Terps.
Co-Op Housing University of Maryland (CHUM) is leading the charge in this effort. They still need to get their act together and actually purchase a house, but they have a significant community and have shown dramatic growth while maintaining their core values of democracy and inclusion. Well done, CHUM.
Fraternities and sororities, despite whatever misgivings we might have about them, have also developed a good model for effective housing. It is cheaper, more community-oriented and doesn’t fuel the high-rise barons. Other student groups, and students outside of groups, have rented houses together, too; it’s a model that works.
I want College Park to improve. That means a safer community, more community involvement, better voter turnout for local elections, a grocery store nearby and, most of all, better housing options for students. Living in houses in the community will help us get there. Whoever you are reading this, next time you are confronted with the choice of where to live, don’t get suckered into the big apartment scam just because your friends are doing it.
Instead, buy or rent a house.