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Friday February 3rd

‘Absolutely ridiculous’: Students struggle to find on- and off-campus housing

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Approximately 600 UNC students are on the waitlist for fall 2023 on-campus housing. This time last year, there were 422. 

That's an increase of 42.18 percent.

The University said in a statement that, at this point in the spring semester, it is common to have a shortage in housing availability for the fall. Carolina Housing will provide a room for every student who wants to live on campus, UNC Media Relations said. 

But with rising costs on and off campus, the search for housing has been complicated for students.

Housing on campus

"Demand for fall 2023 housing has been especially high due to the excellent value and flexible terms of on-campus housing," Executive Director of Carolina Housing Allan Blattner said in a statement.

Every student waiting for housing will be notified of their waitlist status on a weekly basis. Typically, UNC expects the waitlist to be cleared by August.

On an annual basis, 600 to 1,000 rooms become available for students on the housing waitlist. These come from students who move into resident advisor assignments, finalize study abroad and off-campus living plans or decline admission to the University.

UNC Media Relations said the increased demand for on-campus housing stems from rising housing costs off campus. 

Prices of on-campus housing have also grown — with a five percent increase scheduled for the 2023-24 academic year.The University said the primary causes for these rate increases include addressing deferred maintenance projects in residence halls and compensating for operating and utility cost increases. 

This rise is still below increases in off-campus housing prices, UNC Media Relations said. 

Housing off campus

The average rent in Chapel Hill has increased by 37 percent since 2017. 

“Prices for (off-campus) housing are just absolutely ridiculous,” said Jaleah Taylor, a UNC sophomore currently living in Morrison Residence Hall. “And that’s why people have to live on campus now — because it’s just so expensive to live off campus.”

Next year, she plans to live in Lark Chapel Hill Apartments, which she said will be about $300 more per month than she pays to live in Morrison. 

However, Taylor said she will be receiving more amenities through the apartment complex that will make the price worth it.

“I think UNC should definitely promote some type of affordable housing,” Taylor said. 

She also said high demand for on-campus housing decreases the likelihood that students receive their first-choice residence hall, which can push some students to explore more off-campus housing options.

Emily Holt, affordable housing development officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, said Chapel Hill has a tight housing market for multiple reasons. She cited the Town's limited land, popularity and the influx of students as reasons for the demand. 

“What we have heard or seen is that more and more students are moving off campus for various reasons, and so there's an increase in demand for housing in town, on top of the already high demand,” Holt said. 

Chapel Hill can not expand out because it is surrounded by a rural buffer, she said. 

The buffer is a planning and zoning area created by the Joint Planning Agreement between Orange County, Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

“Unlike some places that can annex land and grow out into the county, we have a perimeter that's not going to change,” Holt said.

Another factor limiting housing supply in the area is that Chapel Hill has historically preferred low-density development, and most of the town's land is single-family zoning, she said.

Holt said while there is not much available land in Chapel Hill, there is some underutilized space where low-density neighborhoods could be replaced. However, the supply cannot keep up with the demand.

“We can't just snap our fingers and have them happen," Holt said. “There's a lot of things that have to happen to get a big project going.”

Holt also said rezoning can be an onerous, public and controversial process because it requires developers to go to the Chapel Hill Town Council, propose and submit an application and go through a public hearing process during which the neighborhood might get involved.

Carrboro Town Council member Barbara Foushee said that, while some students are supported by their families who are able to pay some of the higher rental rates, other families may not be able to keep up with the cost. 

“I would say our hands are tied because the apartment complexes are owned by private developers and management groups, and so they are the ones that control those rental rates and those conditions in those apartment communities,” Foushee said. 

She also said while rental rates are in the hands of developers and management groups, the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill are continuing to look for opportunities to provide more housing.

Although the local government has taken action to address their concerns, students and residents still face hardships regarding housing. 

“I think it’s just an overall competitive atmosphere — both on and off campus,” Taylor said.

@msingleton42 | @dailytarheel

university@dailytarheel.com | city@dailytarheel.com

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