By Annika McGinnis, The Diamondback (Feb. 4, 2013)
EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of several individuals were withheld to protect their jobs.
While students often see apartment complex rent prices climb from year to year, the University Club recently slashed its rates in response to a drop in student leases.
To increase occupancy rates at the apartment complex, which has traditionally offered some of the cheapest off-campus housing, management decreased prices from about $500 per person a month for a two-bedroom, four-person apartment to just $440. Occupancy rates are now in the upper 80s, compared to the lower 90s last year, according to a person with working knowledge of the property. To reel in student renters, the complex has done everything from holding a pizza party on Wednesday for students who promised to renew their lease, to considering furnishing apartments.
“This is the first I’m hearing [that rent’s] gone down this far for everybody,” said Katie Chang, a junior psychology major who has lived in University Club for three years. “Most apartment complexes have a reputation of upping rent at least a little bit every year, but we’ve been going progressively lower, so it seems like a business strategy just to attract more broke college kids.”
Both the decreased rent and slipping occupancy rate can be attributed to changes in the housing market since the opening of The Enclave in fall 2011, said a University Club official. Because the number of students hasn’t increased in response to the housing expansion, there are more than 600 vacant beds in the immediate market, he added.
“The university had more housing available than [the] last couple of years,” wrote Marti Rowntree, a manager at nearby Parkside at College Park, another complex known for having less-expensive rates, in an email. “And I believe they are adding so it will be more of a challenge for us (Parkside, University Club, rental homes) to compete with everyone.”
But the official said he would expect The Varsity’s and the University View’s occupancies to decrease as well as a result of oversupply. The Varsity filled 97.5 percent of its beds this year, 4.5 percent more than last year, according to Varsity manager Ashley Brittain. And at the University View, 100 percent of beds are occupied versus 95 percent last year, said Whitney, a University View community assistant.
Several residents of University Club said they’ve seen roommates and other tenants move out because of issues such as poor management and maintenance problems. On apartmentratings.com, the complex has 6 percent approval, the third-lowest rating of the 17 apartment complexes that have reviews for the 20740 zip code.
Chang has experienced maintenance issues, she said, including a broken garbage disposal, closet door and top lock that resulted in her being locked out one night. The elevator broke once during finals week, forcing students to walk up several flights of stairs every day, said Tanisha Wells, a junior business major.
“It’s annoying. Really, really annoying,” Wells said. “The water goes out — they turn off the water at the most inconvenient times.”
But Chang said maintenance has improved significantly over the years, and the unnamed Club official added such problems would be found at any apartment complex and are quickly addressed. Some residents, such as Isaac Zhao, a freshman mathematics major, said they are very satisfied with their living experiences at the Club.
“They have their gym, they have nice staff, they have a pool table, and it’s actually really big for the price you pay,” Zhao said. “And they have ovens. They have everything here.”
Still, as occupancy rates and rents decrease, the Club is increasing its effort to draw more students, in part by promising to furnish apartments next year.
This may not be enough of an attraction for students, however. At nearby Parkside, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment for up to four people dropped to $1,577. But unlike University Club, more people are leasing at Parkside — 98 percent of beds are filled this year, compared to 87 percent last year, Rowntree said. On apartmentratings.com, 73 percent approved the complex.
Rent fell at Parkside “because a lot of people don’t know we’re here, even though we’re so close [to the campus],” Rowntree said.
Similarly, Zhao said students aren’t aware of University Club.
“When I mention University Club, no one knows where it is,” Zhao said. “Whereas everyone knows about the View and The Varsity.”
Still, the University Club official is optimistic about this year’s leasing season. Despite some annoyances, said Mayrone Negash, a junior economics major, the Club provides residents with what they need as students at a rate they can afford.
“We are college students, and we just want a place to sleep, a place to eat and a place to study,” Negash said.