Students struggle to find affordable, convenient housing options near campus

Sophomore Kelly Buer: “I wanted to live somewhere where I didn’t have to be shuttled to campus, and that’s very limiting and it’s expensive to be that close to campus.”

“Affordable housing” and “college town” seem synonymous on paper. But the reality is not so clear-cut.

Rent for student apartments in Columbia can run anywhere from $300 to $1800 per month, depending on whether it’s based on number of residents and bedrooms or a flat fee for the whole unit. Columbia’s student housing price range is also influenced by the building’s proximity to campus.

According to Numbeo, a user-submitted database of city living expenses, the cost of a one-bedroom apartment in Columbia is around $158 cheaper than a similar apartment around the University of Kansas campus. A one-bedroom apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, off the University of Arkansas’ campus, is around $45 more expensive per month than one in Columbia.

“It’s definitely a hard process, and it’s all-around too expensive,” said sophomore Kelly Buer, who lives at Orr Street Lofts. “I wanted to live somewhere where I didn’t have to be shuttled to campus, and that’s very limiting, and it’s expensive to be that close to campus. We’re in a smaller space with more people than there should be, and it’s still not that cheap.”

Brookside’s Downtown and Midtown locations and University Place Apartments are options just off campus. UPA, on the lower end of the price spectrum, runs for around $490 a month for a two-bedroom apartment. Rise on 9th, which will open downtown in fall 2017, rents anywhere from around $679 to $1,559 per month.

In May, Columbia City Council froze new permits for housing developments downtown until Dec. 1. The housing freeze came after several new housing complexes were constructed and planned for downtown Columbia at the expense of some local businesses and storefronts. There aren’t many housing complexes immediately off-campus, but recently there has been an influx of new developments downtown.

One of the newer complexes is the Lofts at 308, which has units for around $900 per month. The most recently completed downtown development is Brookside’s location above Shakespeare’s Pizza. The third through sixth floors include roughly 50 apartments.

One resource available to MU students is the Off-Campus Student Services office, located in the lower level of the Student Center.

“We take the time to find out what [students] are looking for, what have they tried in the past, their expectations for housing and then work with them to find other options,” said Nicole Logue, Off-Campus Student Services interim coordinator. “This is not a simple five-minute process; looking for housing takes time and research to find the best fit for each student.”

Students at other campuses in Midwest towns reported having similar issues to those faced by some students at MU. Iowa State sophomore Jessica Allison had similar experiences finding housing in Iowa City.

“It’s extremely expensive to live just off campus in Iowa City, and I think that is a bit of a problem. I’d also like to see more parking opportunities in our town; a lot of the complexes are charging people to park your car on the side of the street because there isn’t a lot of room.”

KU junior Dan Stewart said prices are typically higher the closer you get to campus. With fewer bedrooms and roommates, the price for each individual goes up drastically.

“Last year, I stayed in an on-campus apartment that was facilitated by the university but without many of the restrictions they place on freshman-oriented housing,” Stewart said. “It was a nice transition from there to my own apartment now. There were a few well-known places around Lawrence, and I decided if I was going to move to a place, I would go for a more recognizable name.”

That name sometimes comes with a much higher cost. Brookside is one of the larger and more popular housing companies with multiple properties around Columbia, and it has similar rent costs to the other major downtown developments.

A downtown Brookside location unit starts around $850. High rent prices and costly utilities are often compounded in some downtown locations with an additional fee for parking. Residents at UPA could pay $225 per semester for parking, which is almost half a month’s rent for a two-bedroom unit.

“When I started looking for housing last year, I didn’t get any help from the university; it was mainly my roommates and I working through it ourselves,” Buer said. “The university may not be advertising that they help find housing as much as they should be, and I think they could definitely help more since most of Mizzou’s students don’t live on campus.”

Edited by Kyra Haas | khaas@themaneater.com

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