Saxa Politica: Housing headache

October 26, 2006

It’s that time of year again. Housing season is upon us: Georgetown students are scurrying madly to figure out where they’ll be living for the 2007-2008 academic year, and for many, the situation isn’t pretty.

Melanie Kantor (COL ‘08) recently lost a lease on the Burleith townhouse she had planned to live in next year. Her landlord wanted all of the tenants to sign before the results of the eligibility draw had been posted, and Kantor could only get four of the six spots filled in time.

“I really wanted to stay in my house that I live in now because I love the house and it’s a great location,” she said. “Now, I’m starting kind of late, because I thought I already had a house.”

Landlords like Kantor’s force people to sign leases early because they can. Demand for housing in the area is so high that if one group of students wants to wait for eligibility results before signing a lease, another group (or five) will be eagerly waiting to snatch the house out from under them.

Of the 2,162 students who applied, 1,698 were granted housing eligibility for next year, and 720 students are on the waitlist, according to Karen Frank, Vice President of Facilities and Student Housing.

Hilary Winn (COL ‘08), one of the friends Kantor was planning to live with before the group lost its lease, is one of the unlucky not-so-few on the waitlist.

“I’m like number 121 on the waitlist for on-campus housing,” she said.

In Winn’s case, ending up on the waitlist was especially irritating because as a transfer student, she has only lived on campus for two years.

“I guess they assume your three years of living on campus are going to be freshman, sophomore and junior years,” Winn said.

In the meantime, she is looking for off-campus housing and just wants to get the situation resolved as quickly and easily as possible. But in the race for a Georgetown townhouse, she’s already running late.

The current system, in which some students sign leases over a year in advance, is out of control. The University should pressure landlords to allow students to wait for eligibility results before forcing them to sign a lease. Demand is high enough that landlords will definitely not be left with an empty house come August. Housing could hold information sessions for students and landlords to help alleviate the current housing paranoia, which borders on absurd.

“One of my friends who is my year signed a lease in April of last year for her senior year house on Bank Street,” Kantor said.

Signing a lease for senior year in the spring of your sophomore year? Incredulous, I asked her if she was sure about that.

“Honestly?” she said. “It might have even been March.”

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