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Costs of housing

Rising rent and demand complicate search for housing
Costs+of+housing
Jocelyn Peller

Unable to secure campus housing at American University as an upperclassman, Madison DeFrancesco said she eventually found her college apartment in Silver Spring, Maryland.

DeFrancesco, who graduated in 2023, said living off campus was cheaper than living in a dorm but led to transportation difficulties. DeFrancesco said she would sometimes get stuck in traffic for two hours while driving from the campus to her apartment.

Finding affordable off-campus housing was difficult because so many other upperclassmen were searching for apartments as well, DeFrancesco said.

“Places were just going so quickly, so I would have tours scheduled for certain houses and they would pretty much be gone by the time I was able to get all my friends on board with a place,” DeFrancesco said.

Looking for housing options in the D.C. area can often be cheaper for AU students. The university only guarantees housing for first and second-year undergraduates, according to AU’s Housing & Residence Life website, so finding off-campus housing may be a necessity for upperclassmen. However, rising prices and demand have made it difficult for students to find housing.

About 44,000 households in the district spent at least half of their income on rent in 2021, according to the action agency United Planning Organization. The district’s attempts to create affordable housing have not made a substantial difference in housing costs within the private market, and there is a call for the district to provide more housing geared toward its struggling residents, according to the organization.

According to the website Apartment List, rent in the district has increased by 0.3% over the past year, while rent across the U.S. has decreased by 1.2%.

AU’s Office of Housing and Residence Life charges between over $5,000 to over $6,900 per semester for a double room, depending on the dorm location and style, according to AU’s Housing & Residence Life website. In contrast, off-campus housing, depending on the location in the D.C. area, can be as little as $750 per month, according to apartments listed on Rent.com.

Internal Communications Manager for AU Jasmine Pelaez said AU provides an off-campus housing resource page, which includes tools for negotiating your first lease and things to know when attending a tour.

“To assist all students, the Off-Campus Housing Services web page provides resources, including access to the Off-Campus Postings Site, and a video presentation outlining housing tips, how to approach a housing search, and additional considerations,” Pelaez said in an email.

However, many students said they did not know about this resource when looking for housing and relied more on help from older students and siblings with prior experience.

Sophomore Sachi Lozano said she did not know this resource page existed when looking for housing.

“The most helpful resource was upperclassmen who had prior experience,” Lozano said.

Lilia Bose, a junior at AU who lives in an apartment about half a mile from campus, said that living off campus taught her how to live on her own.

“Just the idea to be able to have your own space and [be] part of the more independent lifestyle,” Bose said when asked why she decided to look for off-campus housing.

Senior Mia Bowman had similar thoughts and said they would like to see the university educate its students on personal finance skills, such as budgeting, to help prepare students for life post-graduation.

“I really wanted to get a headstart on what it was going to be like after college, living off campus, understanding rent and stuff like that, and buying my own things,” Bowman said. “I just feel like I’m better prepared for what my life is going to be like after college.”

LeRoy said he decided the pros of living off campus outweighed the cons when he moved into his apartment in Glover Park. He said that while on-campus housing provided more access to campus life, it has been more cost-effective to live off campus, especially for students like himself who live farther from campus.

“I’m sure there are a lot of kids who live on campus out of convenience that are able to afford it,” LeRoy said. “But I know there’s a lot of kids who can’t afford it that don’t have the ability to find other spots around campus.”

LeRoy said he predicts increased demand for off-campus housing could pose an issue for AU students trying to find somewhere to live.

“As the university gets bigger, or just as the housing gets older and there’s fewer options, it’s only going to get worse,” LeRoy said.

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About the Contributor
Ava Ramsdale, Staff Writer
Ava Ramsdale (She/Her) is a political science major. Ramsdale loves to read as well as watch movies with friends, especially rom-coms. Ramsdale also has a passion for dance.