Housing hopefuls left homeless

For the first time in housing history, University of Alaska Anchorage Housing Services has a waiting list for students wanting to live on campus. As of Aug. 22, there are 211 students on the waiting list, more than the equivalent capacity of one entire resident hall. Housing services has no explanation for the increase and there are few resources available for students stuck without a place to live on campus.

“This is the first year we've experienced this type of wait list,” said Debra Lovass, associate director of housing services. “From what I understand, last year we still had openings.”

Student housing offers three options. There are three residence halls, North, East and West, that house mainly first-time residents in a variety of room arrangements. The Main Apartment Complex consists of six buildings with a total of 74 apartments housing four students each. Templewood Apartments are arranged town-house style and houses a total of 80 students in 20 apartments. In total, there are 925 beds available this year. Seventeen bed spaces are temporarily being used to accommodate offices for the Human Resource Department, and eight bed spaces are used for Residential Life conference space.

Lovass said that with so much going on right now there has been no time to research the sudden increase of students wanting to live on campus and she knows of no particular factor that has caused the increase.

Increased enrollment and admissions does not seem to be a factor in the increase. According to the University of Alaska Budget and Institutional Research Web page, as of Aug. 18, admissions has decreased two percent over the past year.

Local trends in real estate and cost of living may play a part in the increased interest in on-campus housing. Kincaid & Riely, LLC, a real estate appraisal and consultant firm in Anchorage researches local real estate trends. According to the most recent Apartment Market Report for March 2001, the vacancy rates have decreased for the fourth straight year while rental rates increased for the first time in three years. Out of 6,913 units surveyed, 135 were vacant. Rental agents at both Nova Property Management and Pacific Rim Properties say it's currently a busy, tight market for rentals and speculate that these recent trends may lead to more students wanting to live on campus.

Regardless of the reason for the increased interest in on-campus accommodations, housing services does not have a contingency plan for temporary housing.

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“We don't have these things in place now because we haven't had the problem before,” said Lovass.

Housing is giving students on the waiting list three options. They can stay on the list and hope that some students cancel or don't show up. They can be rolled to spring semester and hope more rooms become available. Or they can be dropped from the list and try to find off-campus housing.

Paige Bordthauser, a transfer student from Red Wing, Minnesota, estimates she is about 200 on the waiting list.

“I thought it would be nice to get a dorm room to meet people. But they just said I don't have a place to live,” Bordthauser said. “They didn't give me any real details. I'm surprised they don't have temporary housing or something”

Bordthauser said she has decided to stay in Minnesota and attend the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for fall semester and says she hopes UAA can find a place for her in the spring.

Shelly Baumann, assignments and records coordinator at University of Alaska

Fairbanks Housing Services, says that 10 years ago when they had a large wait list due to increased enrollment, they were still able to accommodate every student. UAF placed students in empty apartments and doubled occupancy in other rooms. They also established contracts with two hotels in Fairbanks to house students who couldn't get on campus.

UAF's enrollment has increased by 7.8 percent this semester, and the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforces Development estimates the apartment vacancy rate for the Fairbanks North Star Borough is 8.5 percent. Despite these rates, Baumann says UAF's housing services is on the right track compared with last year. UAF currently has a waiting list for students wanting single rooms, but even if they don't get their first preference, they will be housed.

At UAA, housing services is looking to establish methods of dealing with a waiting list if it continues to occur.

“I look at it as a challenge to look at future things we can develop,” said Lovass. Now that housing services is fully staffed for the first time in long time, Lovass would like to develop a plan for overflow housing, including off-campus arrangements.

“We need to get something in place for when this happens again.”