Off-campus housing options continue to grow
With new development popping up all around Tech ' s borders, should Housing be worried?
Left photo by Amanda Thomas / Student Publications; Right photo courtesy Metro Pointe Lofts
On VS. Off
For many upperclassmen faced with housing lotteries and wait lists, the wealth of new apartment complexes springing up just outside the borders of Tech can look awfully tempting.
Areas such as Atlantic Station and Gables Cityscape, off of North Avenue, already house a number of students, while yet another complex is under construction at the corner of Bellemeade and Northside Drive.
The corporations that own those buildings have even recognized Tech as a potential consumer market and have made an effort to advertise themselves to the student body.
For example, representatives from Metro Pointe Lofts, a new development on Marietta Street, have been on campus handing out flyers. Its website, www.metropointelofts.com, bills the development as " a new generation of student loft living " and features spacious apartments with access to pools, fitness centers and game rooms. And students have responded.
" The apartment I have now is much larger and costs much less than a Georgia Tech apartment, " said Phillip Whatley, a third-year Building Construction major and resident of Collier Ridge Apartments off Howell Mill Road. " I wanted something larger than a dorm...and I don ' t mind traveling a little bit. "
With the promise of cheaper rent and greater luxury, it would seem that everybody would be rushing to fill these rooms, leaving the dorms and apartments on campus vacant.
But the Department of Housing, while aware of the increased competition, isn ' t worried.
" Students...go to look off campus, and the prices may look more competitive until they start to break [it] down into packages, " said Dan Morrison, associate director of Housing for Residence Life.
According to Morrison, students are attracted to the rent for off-campus housing while forgetting that electricity, heating, cable and other luxuries are billed separately. Housing offers everything in a single payment.
In addition, aside from Home Park, the closest off-campus housing requires a shuttle or car to get around.
" I think the student takes into consideration...the aggravation of taking a shuttle from whatever location you ' re talking about, " said Don Neuendorff, associate director of Housing Administration. " I don ' t care how they ' re going to try to be convenient. You can ' t really beat the location we ' ve got...It ' s nice to roll out of bed in the morning and...cross campus. "
Some students agree, especially those without some mode of transportation.
" I don ' t have a car, so my options are limited, " said Mark Moreno, a second-year Architecture major who lives in Hemphill Apartments.
" [I have a] good internet connection, fast and good maintenance crew, my room is plenty big for me and...I can walk to everything I want to, especially class, " said Dave Link, a third-year Aerospace Engineering major who lives in Maulding.
Data from the Department of Housing shows an increase in the demand for on-campus rooms, due in part to larger incoming freshmen classes and also to efforts by Housing to advertise itself to the student body.
" We actually need...7000 students to decide to [live off-campus] to make all the numbers work, " Morrison said.
" I think we ' ve actually had a better information campaign...this year in terms of signs and table tents and all of that, " Morrison said.
The campaign came about in the face of increasing competition. Whereas the Department of Housing once offered the only convenient residency options for students, the new privately-owned complexes mean Housing has to prove they ' re still the best option.
" To simply say [that we ' re] the only game in town except for a bunch of houses over in Home Park...isn ' t true anymore, so we have to change how we go about doing things, " Morrison said. " It has to be true that the Residence Life staff, the programs, the activities, the convenience, the proximity has to really deliver, making sure that we offer students what they want as well as what we think they need. "
This includes some recent changes to Housing policies, which Morrison believes helps keep students on campus. For instance, Housing now places a higher priority on pairing up friends as roommates.
" What our data show us is people would like to be in X kind of building, but they ' re willing to compromise on that if they can be with their friends, " Morrison said. " We find that if people are happy, then all those other things start to fall in line. "
One popular implementation is the introduction of block housing. Students, especially rising sophomores, can all request an apartment together for the new school year.
Some apartments have tried to mimic the trends of on-campus housing in response.
According to Morrison, 100 Midtown at 10th Street, which opens this fall, will offer individual leases for individual rooms, and they even plan to hire resident assistants similar to the PLs and CAs in on-campus housing.
" But talk about random roommates, " Morrison said. " My sense is that...they ' ll fill it up with anybody who can pay the rent. "
Morrison also pointed out that off-campus residents have to deal with landlords and roommates who fail to pay their part of the rent. For reasons like this, some students discover off-campus residency to be less than they expected and quickly opt to return to campus the following year.
" [Maybe] 10 times a semester [we] will get a parent usually calling and say, ' Can you help my kid out of the mess? ' " Morrison said.
However, other students remain off-campus. " I have a lot more room, am able to furnish the apartment with my own more comfortable furniture, [and] am located right in the middle of Midtown but am still just a couple of minutes from Tech, " said Nate Lacy, a second-year Management major who lives in Arts Center Tower. " I ' m just not a big fan of dorm-style housing. "