Housing costs a big issue for students

Scott Barnes

Staff Writer

Balancing a budget can be a difficult task for almost anybody, and perhaps more difficult for a college student. For many students, college is their first experience of living on their own, and living alone for the first time is a learning experience that can bring about a lot of unexpected costs.

Nursing major Ariana Bullock is just one of the many people attending Parkland that has had to learn how to balance her budget. Although she admits to receiving some financial help from her parents she still has to be responsible with her money.

“I still have to save,” Bullock said. “You have to learn what to say yes to and what to say no to.”

One expense most college students will incur, without choice, is the cost of rent. There are many realty companies in the Champaign – Urbana area that offer housing to students, and rates vary by company as well as location.

According to Kelli Berry, Realtor, Broker, and Office Manager at Weiner Companies, around 60 percent of the customer base that they serve is made up of students. She explained that a lot of these students are renting for the first time, and Weiner takes that fact into consideration. Weiner also takes into consideration the fact that most students don’t make a lot of money, and they offer a lot of affordable housing.

“I think everyone in this office has been in the poor student predicament,” Berry said. “So I think we’re perhaps more sympathetic than some others.”

Berry explained that, even though Weiner does offer a lot of affordable housing properties, they do a lot to make sure that low cost rent doesn’t equate to low quality housing. All of the units they rent are held to a high standard of upkeep.

If students want to secure a housing unit at an affordable rate it is in their best interest to begin their search well in advance. In fact, about one year in advance, as Manager at Green Street Realty, Jason Reda explained.

“Most of our houses have already been leased for next year,” Reda explained. “Typically we get calls 13 or 14 months prior to the lease actually beginning. It is quite strange. You’re picking out a place almost a year in advance and a lot can change in that time. However, it’s just incredibly competitive on campus.”

Reda acknowledges that many of his clients are renting for the first time, and that is something he is used to dealing with. Green Street Realty is not oblivious to the fact that these students are likely to not have much of a credit history or a large source of income, and they are more flexible when it comes to renting to students than they would be with other renters.

“We understand that they are students,” Reda added. “Typically there is no credit. It’s not bad credit, it’s just no credit; there has been no activity whatsoever.”

Reda feels that it is part of his job to be sympathetic to the fact that these young adults are just beginning to learn how to budget their expenses and prioritize their lives. He deals with students on a regular basis that perhaps spend a little too much of their monthly income on things other than rent.

“Students sometimes have to learn the hard way,” Reda explained. “We’re certainly sympathetic to everyone’s situation but, at the end of the day, the rent has to be paid. That’s where it gets tricky for us. They’re students and we know they’re doing everything they can.”

In addition to being flexible with rent due dates, Reda also deals with a lot of students that may not understand what their duties are when it comes to maintaining their units. He explained that most student renters have little or no experience living on their own, and he has to guide them through certain issues such as clogged drains and changing light bulbs.

Students that need assistance in dealing with all of the different aspects of renting, including available rental properties, can find guidance at www.tenantunion.uiuc.edu.