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UNC's on-campus housing shortage 'debilitating' for some students

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UNC students walk through Polk Place on Aug. 14, 2022.

Students who hoped to find on-campus housing for this year faced a number of stressors, ranging from being on an almost 600-person waitlist to being turned away completely. 

Last November, 583 undergraduate students who applied for on-campus housing before the priority deadline were unable to choose a room during the initial selection process and were put on that waitlist.

Carolina Housing sent an email to these students promising them housing for the upcoming year and advising them to “rest assured.” 

While all the students who were on that waitlist either received a room assignment or canceled their contracts, Carolina Housing turned away students who applied after the deadline and some transfer students due to high demand.

Karen Valdez, a sophomore transfer student, said she was unable to receive on-campus housing for the 2023-2024 academic year after she was told that Carolina Housing would not be able to accommodate her. She said she was unable to find any close off-campus housing options in her family's budget, which forced her to find a house 30 minutes away from campus.  

As a commuter, on top of the normal stressors of school, Valdez said she has to worry about navigating traffic, balancing sleep with driving time and remembering bus schedules to and from her designated parking deck —  a 20-minute walk from campus. 

She also said she is struggling with finding her on-campus community, getting involved in clubs and engaging in school spirit. Valdez added that being housed on campus might have helped her connect with campus life. 

“It's kind of shocking to me, and almost in a way debilitating, to see that they didn't really do anything to go out of their way to make sure that their students had somewhere to be,” Valdez said. 

Samiira Hassan, another transfer student, said that because of issues with housing on top of other transfer obstacles, she questioned if UNC was the right university for her. She said she felt like she was making a “dumb decision.”

“I was stressed all the time. Like mentally it made me sick to my stomach,” Hassan said. “Every day, I went to sleep, and I didn't have housing.”

Hassan, who applied after the May 17 incoming and transfer student housing deadline, was put on the housing waitlist over the summer. As a result, she said she had no time to find off-campus living options that were close to campus, affordable and had not already been taken.  

Hassan decided to keep her name on the list and was placed into a South Campus dorm in July.

“It just felt like nobody was willing to help look for things, and that just really bothered me,” Hassan said. “I just kept getting those emails and I kept emailing [Carolina] Housing and they just said that same thing over and over again. They're like, ‘We don't expect to give you housing.’"

A resident adviser on campus, who asked to remain anonymous, said he also had difficulty finding housing. Despite applying before the early application deadline, he said he found himself being one of the 583 people placed on Carolina Housing's residence hall waitlist. He ultimately decided to apply to become an RA just to secure a place to live.  

The RA said he also knew other friends who were not guaranteed housing and were “really stressed” because they weren’t officially notified about their lack of an on-campus housing arrangement until it was “impossibly too late to get an apartment.”

“That was one of my major deciding factors in becoming an RA because I couldn't afford a house. I couldn't afford an apartment. I wasn't confident in UNC's ability to promise me housing,” the RA said.

Next year, Carolina Housing expects a waitlist for on-campus housing — although it is unclear how many students will be on the list. However, fewer rooms will be available because of the renovations planned for Avery Residence Hall. 

Valdez said the issue of housing is so important because it is a significant aspect of individual security.

“If you don't really have a ‘safe haven,’ then how do you expect to feel any sort of comfort,” Valdez said.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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