Housing Shortage Leaves U Students Frustrated

Kahlert+Village+at+the+University+of+Utah+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Dec.+3%2C+2021+%28Photo+by+Emily+Rincon%C2%A0%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Emily Rincon

Kahlert Village at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Dec. 3, 2021 (Photo by Emily Rincon | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Stevie Shaughnessey, News Writer

 

With over 13 different housing options at the University of Utah, six of which are exclusively for first-year students, there are many different housing styles and locations to choose from at the U.

But after the housing application had opened, students found themselves being waitlisted with no guarantee that they would receive a place to live on campus.

Nate Boulanger, a senior studying biology, applied for on-campus housing for the 2022-2023 school year, but never received a spot despite his continuous efforts.

“It was just a little bit frustrating when we started out because when we applied for a reservation, we did it pretty early on,” Boulanger said. “As soon as my dad and I were trying to find a place, we logged in, and there’s nothing available.”

Higher Demand

Rachel Aho, U director of housing, said the cause behind this shortage is more students wanting to live on campus than previous years.

“I think one of the things to know is that living on campus for students at the University of Utah has become increasingly popular,” she said. “So, unfortunately, our department and the University of Utah just simply do not have enough housing availability to guarantee housing at this point to all students who want to live on campus based on our current housing options.”

According to Aho, the U has added more housing to accommodate students, such as the Marriott Honors Community, Lassonde Studios and the Village. But with this year’s volume of students, the housing administration is struggling to keep up.

“We’re still seeing that there is an unmet housing demand among current and incoming students. But as those incoming classes increase, and new facilities open, that interest has remained high in being a part of the on-campus experience,” Aho said.

With this housing shortage, Boulanger said students who rely on living on campus because of their inability to commute are struggling to find other places that provide them with the same accessibility.

“I really wanted to live on campus because I don’t really have my own vehicle,” Boulanger said. “It was very restrictive towards where I could really choose to go.”

Rising rent prices around the Salt Lake area also limited his options for off campus housing, according to Boulanger, and made his housing experience more difficult. 

According to KSL-TV, rent prices increased by 24.6% in the Salt Lake area from 2019 to 2022.

Call to Action

With this high housing demand, along with many frustrated students, the U took action, creating more housing options for the 2022-2023 school year with the little time they had as a plan to support students who needed a place to live.

“We added and maximized our current occupancy by adding some triple rooms to campus,” Aho said. “We also are working to house students over in the University Guest House. Most recently, we just added a new facility off campus which is called The Draw, and that facility will add 162 bed spaces for upper division students.”

With these added extra housing options, the U has made progress in decreasing the housing waitlist overall. According to a YouTube stream done by the housing administration in April the priority waitlist included 2,713 people, with another 475 on the non-priority waitlist.

According to Aho, by July 15 the waitlist had nearly vanished.

“We’ve worked very, very hard to move over 1,200 students into permanent spaces for this upcoming fall offer waitlist,” Aho said. “So as of this week, we have extended waitlist offers to all first-year students who are on the waitlist.”

Aho said the housing administration has been working hard to offer more upperclassmen housing spaces, with only 300 left on the current waitlist.

Looking Forward

Throughout his struggle with housing, Boulanger thinks the whole situation was preventable, and upperclassmen have been treated unfairly by the U throughout the ordeal.

“I heard that they were converting Benchmark Plaza to supplement the incoming freshman class. It’s just kind of a slap in the face to people who have already been enrolled,” Boulanger said.

Benchmark Plaza was once a housing facility for upperclassmen only, but has now been converted to a first-year facility to accommodate the incoming freshman class.

Boulanger said admissions should’ve coordinated better with housing in order to have enough spaces for everyone on campus and not just freshmen.

“It showed a lack of preparation for subsequent years,” Boulanger said.

In response to this year’s housing shortage, the U already has several housing facilities in progress to ensure that the problem doesn’t repeat itself in the future.

“The first project is our fourth wing of Kahlert Village, which is actively under construction right now,” Aho said. “That will add over 430 new beds to the building in Fall 2023.The university also just recently announced the addition of a second housing construction project, which will add an additional 775 beds to campus as part of the Impact Epicenter building and that building is slated to open in the fall of 2024.”

Aho said these two construction projects will house both first-year and upperclassmen students once completed, and the housing administration is continuing to plan for housing needs in the future.

For the time being, Aho is hopeful that students who want to live on campus will reach out to them with their questions and concerns.

“I would encourage students if they’re still interested in living on campus with us to give us a call first and we’d be happy to talk with them about what options we might have,” Aho said.

 

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