Recently, I was asked by my landlord to renew my lease. The notice gave me only a week to make a decision as to where I want to live four months from now, and I realized that I didn’t have very many options.
Any hope of finding a cheaper apartment this late in the semester that was closer to campus was a long shot. I really enjoy the peacefulness of my neighborhood, and I am not all that crazy about the whole process of moving. So, I gave in.
But after reading my lease renewal papers, I was shocked to find that my monthly rent was going to be raised $50. This doesn’t sound like a fortune, but in the course of a year, it would mean spending $600 more for rent to live in the same place I do now.
Even though I was sure that I was not being personally victimized, I spoke with other students who live off campus and discovered that many others were subject to increases in rent. In fact, Austin has the highest average monthly rent in the state of Texas, and students have certainly not been immune to high rent prices.
When looking for off-campus housing, students take a few factors into account, including location, amenities and most importantly, price. Many students may want to pay cheaper rent, but depending on where they want to live, they may have to trade affordability for convenience. Student housing complexes are aware of the desire of students to live within close proximity to the University, and they take advantage of students through raising already high rent prices.
One of the most popular student neighborhoods, West Campus, has unmatched convenience, as many of its student housing buildings are within walking distance of the University. Home to many new luxury apartment complexes, landlords are also able to sell students on the aesthetic qualities of the housing in the area. However, those who wish to live in the highly-desirable neighborhood must plan almost a year in advance of when they want to move in as apartment complexes start to pre-lease units for the next year in the middle of the fall semester. If living arrangements are not made long in advance, students are often left with few housing options at less than competitive prices.
The demand for apartments in West Campus is very high and price-inelastic, meaning that landlords have the opportunity to increase rent to as much as they think students or their parents are willing to pay because there are always other students who want to live there and would happily take over a vacant apartment. The opportunity to capitalize on students’ desire to be close to the University and to the social events that take place in West Campus has led to some of the highest rents in Austin.
A one-bedroom apartment in the city is, on average, $834 per month, but a one-bedroom apartment in West Campus can rent for well over $1,000 a month. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that in order to afford the average one-bedroom apartment in Austin, the income, at minimum wage, of more than two full-time jobs is required. Landlords do not consider students from all socioeconomic backgrounds when setting rent prices. It would be impossible for students to work two full-time jobs just to make enough to afford rent, when the purpose of living there is to attend class at UT.
Geography sophomore Mijal Grosman believes that annual increases in rent prices do not take into account students who work in order to afford rent.
“It’s unfair to some students because, in general, working student wages don’t go up at the same rate as rent does,” Grosman said.
While it is certainly understandable that profit is the ultimate end game for owners of student housing properties, it is important for them to remember that their market is almost exclusively made up of college students who sometimes spend more money on housing in a year than they do on in-state tuition for a semester and to make price adjustments with this reality in mind.
Davis is an international relations and French junior from Houston. Follow Davis on Twitter @daveedalon.