Jan. 30-Feb. 12, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 2
Back Issues
IN THIS ISSUE
Darden to run ethics institute
First Lady of Virginia, Lisa Collis, a leader in public service
Facilities focus of BOV’s Student Affairs meeting
Headlines @ U.Va.
Undergrad wins Mitchell Scholarship
Online COMPASS makes room reservations easy
Humans began altering global climate thousands of years ago
Xiaoming ‘Peter’ Yu
Revisiting Racial Diversity
2004 Black History Month Calendar of Events
Stem-cell researcher finds unusual ally in GOP leader
Can the spam: E-mail filter weeds out those unwanted messages
Collage glues together numerous pespectives
What’s a Didjeridu?
Mini-med school accepting applications until Feb. 27
Students drive real estate market
Students drive real estate market
Rental housing a big business in Charlottesville
University students
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
University students drive the local rental market, generating profit for some, but making housing less affordable for others.

By Lauren Fischer

Maybe it’s not so strange to find an apartment building in Charlottesville that offers free parking, a washer/dryer combo and a swimming pool.
But a 24-hour fitness center? A free shuttle to University Grounds? A tanning bed?

Those are some of the “resort-style amenities” that Eagle’s Landing Apartments and Sterling University Place (address: 100 Wahoo Way) are dangling to entice University students seeking off-Grounds housing.
“There are lots of buildings going up that are specifically [intended] for student housing — it’s market-driven … and typical of any college community,” said Missy Creasey, neighborhood planner for the city of Charlottesville.

Sterling and Eagle’s Landing, which opened this fall, are recent additions to the rental housing market in the Charlottesville metropolitan area. The local market for student housing dates to the 1930s, when Miss Betty Cocke and Miss Betty Booker ran two rooming houses for U.Va. students on University Avenue.

Rental housing in Charlottesville is big business — and getting bigger — driven in large part by growing demand from University students.
Of the nearly 19,200 students enrolled at the University of Virginia, only 3,000 or so first-year students are required to live on Grounds. With the University Housing Division supplying a total of only 6,700 units, more than 12,500 students seek rental housing in metro Charlottesville every year.

“There’s a false assumption that the continued building of on-Grounds housing means a continual rise in student demand” for on-Grounds housing, said Mark Doherty, U.Va. chief housing officer. “Despite new additions, such as the International Residential College, there has been no surge in student demand for on-Grounds living. The reality is that students move off Grounds as part of their general education, as an expression of independence and for better social situations.”

Charlottesville offers a total of more than 18,000 rental units, according to the 2000 census. Almost 10,000 of these are renter-occupied, about 7,000 are owner-occupied and another 1,120 buildings are either vacant or used as public housing. By that reckoning, U.Va. students occupy nearly two-thirds of Charlottesville’s available rental housing, Creasy said.

Demand for off-Grounds student housing in Charlottesville, especially apartments within walking distance of the University, began to climb sharply in 1970, when women were first admitted as undergraduates to the College. With this influx of new students, enrollment jumped by more than 4,300 between 1970 and 1975.

With the near doubling of enrollment at the University over the past 30 years, the demand for student housing has grown apace.

For many local rental-property managers, collegiate customers have become the driving force behind their businesses.

Wade Tremblay, general manager of Wade Apartments, refers to University students as the “engine of the community,” thanks to their purchases of food and other goods, as well as services for their apartments, townhouses and houses. Wade Apartments employs up to 25 people, and other rental companies provide jobs for many more.
But even as the student renters generate income for the apartment owners; employment for local residents in administration and accounting, maintenance and grounds keeping; and business- and property-tax revenues for the city, there is a downside to this powerful market force, city officials note. Strong student demand exerts upward pressure on the market, raising average rents and making it difficult for some families to find affordable housing.

“U.Va. students are considered top-end residents in the city,” said Roosevelt Barbour, acting city assessor for the Charlottesville City Manager’s Office. “Students dictate the high-end rent of the city, … and when the top end goes up, it causes the lower end to go up. If a family rents a home, it’s impacted by what students pay.”

The pressure is unlikely to ease anytime soon. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia estimated earlier this year that more than 60,000 new students are expected to enroll at colleges and universities in Virginia by 2010. At U.Va., graduate and undergraduate enrollment for the 2007-08 school year is expected to reach 19,655, an increase of 450 students over the fall of 2002, according to University estimates.
The student rental housing market affects the character of city neighborhoods close to the University. Most of the city’s landlords are private investors or professional management companies that acquire old buildings or build new developments. The Jefferson Park Avenue neighborhood is 90-percent investor-owned, as is the section of the Venable neighborhood lying inside Rugby Road, Grady Avenue and 13th Street, according to city records.

And in established neighborhoods with a heavy presence of rental property leased to students, friction between student renters and their neighbors is not uncommon. Some property managers say they meet regularly with the JPA and Venable neighborhood associations to keep on top of neighbors’ concerns. Keith Woodard, owner of Woodard Properties, said students are "generally at least conscious of the need to be good citizens," and are expected to be respectful of their neighbors.

The University, through its Office of Community Relations, has been working to improve relations between students living off Grounds and their neighbors. The Community Relations Office, directed by Ida Lee Wootten, recently created “The Off-Grounds Living Guide,” a pamphlet that explains city ordinances and regulations relating to neighborhood living, as well as outlining the penalties for violations.

"We’re giving students the information they need to be responsible neighbors," said Wootten, whose office also hands out refrigerator magnets to neighborhood associations with phone numbers to call to report rowdy fraternity parties, illegally parked cars or improperly disposed trash.

From older neighborhoods that have seen houses divided into apartments and renovated, to spanking new developments of apartment complexes designed with student renters in mind, the demand for off-Grounds housing by U.Va. students is a powerful economic force in metro Charlottesville’s rental housing market.

“There’s no question that students contribute a lot to the local economy,” said Woodard.


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