Affordable Housing

Students walk down the sidewalk interconnecting the residence halls on Daisy Hill.

Opinion

It’s that time of year again for many University of Kansas students where we begin the process of deciding where to live for the next academic year.

As a second-year college student looking forward to the third year this semester, I’ve had the opportunity to live both on-campus in the dorms and off-campus in an apartment complex. Both living situations came with their pros and cons, and yet, during my current tenure living away from campus, I’ve found that the extra amenities and added freedom doesn't make up for the vast array of problems with off-campus living.

It’s true that the cost of living on campus isn’t nearly as cheap as staying at an apartment away from campus. My own apartment, a four-bedroom with a separate bath for each roommate, costs just under $500 a month. In comparison, University rates during the 2019-2020 academic year, for a four-person dorm with one bathroom, cost $727 a month. That rate even increased for the upcoming academic year to $756 a month.

While cost is a significant concern for many KU students, it can also be misleading. With University housing, a student only is required to pay for the dorm during their stay for the academic year, but most landlords at off-campus rentals only have contracts that require payment for a full calendar year.

According to the University’s January 2020 Parent Association Newsletter, “Unlike off-campus, KU Student Housing offers flexible contracts; students can study abroad or take a summer internship without the hassle of sub-leasing.”

In my own experience, subleasing was a hassle. I spent weeks advertising across campus and online, only to have offers fall through once the person lost interest. Subleasing is a congested field with competition from hundreds of students trying to leave their leases, making it that much more difficult to get a buyer.

And the reason subleasing has become so popular comes from complicated means of leaving off-campus complexes. With many landlords leasing to college students, contracts are strict and nearly impossible to break. To them, students who are struggling and leasing their first or second apartment are just another dollar sign.

If there ever comes a time where the living situation no longer seems suitable or troubles with roommates occur, many landlords won’t allow someone to break their contract and instead force them to find someone to take their place. As the year wears on and summer nears, subleasing becomes even more difficult, as students try desperately to break their lease. They may seek to return home or leave for internships, but the financial burden of $500 a month still looms over their heads.

It’s unforgivable in the realm of off-campus leasing.

For many students who already have overwhelming amounts of coursework hanging over their heads, they don’t need the added stress of unbreakable contracts. You can go in thinking that problems won’t occur and that the management will treat you well, but if trouble ever does arise, you may come to find that ways to fix these problems are an even larger headache than you bargained for.

Many afflicted students will long for the days of on-campus student housing, where contracts aren’t as binding and your own personal sanity is more important than a paycheck. 

Brett Knepper is a sophomore from Newton studying English.