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housing guide 2021
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editor’s letter Dear readers, Welcome to The Diamondback’s fall housing guide! Thanks for snagging a copy. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the local housing landscape, living options and some of the developments that are slated for the future. You’ll hear from students and members of the city council. The College Park housing scene is nuanced. At the city level, council members have discussed the intersections of affordable housing and “neighborhood stabilization,” which prioritizes single-family and owner-occupied homes, rather than large groups of renters. Development and the environment are often a part of the housing conversation, as well. For years, many in College Park have rallied behind affordable housing — and especially affordable graduate housing. But plans for the Western Gateway project, which would deforest Guilford Woods, have introduced a divisive sustainability discussion. In the meantime, another development in Old Leonardtown could be on the way. There are multiple projects under construction for those looking to live in an off-campus apartment. It could be a good option for those who are looking to live close to Route 1. But for transfer students, living off-campus isn’t always a choice. It’s a lot to take in, but we’ll break it all down in just a few pages. But that’s enough from me. Go get reading!
Rina Torchinsky Fall Housing Guide editor
3 get to know umd 4-5 housing options transfer students 6 share housing struggles
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College Park council members weigh in on neighborhood stabilization, aﬀordable housing Council members discussed the possibility of ramping up enforcement of a county ordinance that caps the number of unrelated individuals living in a house at ﬁve. By Shreya Vuttaluru | @shreyavut_ | Staff writer The College Park City Council explored policy options to address housing affordability and the decrease in owner-occupied housing during its Sept. 22 work session. Council members discussed the possibility of ramping up enforcement of a Prince George’s County zoning ordinance that caps the number of unrelated individuals living in a house at five. The council also discussed rent-stabilization policies and stricter enforcement of the unruly social gathering ordinance. Both neighborhood stabilization, which aims to preserve the amount of owner-occupied single-family houses in College Park, and housing affordability are integrated issues that need to be understood in a local context, according to city planning director Terry Schum. “It’s hard to talk about neighborhood stabilization without getting into the area of affordable housing,” Schum said. Prince George’s County, unlike Montgomery and Howard counties, does not have inclusionary zoning laws, which would require developers to set aside units in apartment buildings to be below-market rate. This can force students seeking more affordable options in neighborhoods such as Lakeland and Old Town and incentivize investors to buy up houses to rent to students. These investors sometimes out-bid families looking to settle in College Park, said assistant city manager Bill Gardiner. “Students are flocking to those because it’s cheaper than the big apartment complexes,” said District 1 council member Kate Kennedy. While legally only five renters can occupy a home at a time, some exceed that rate even if it’s not on paper, public services director Bob Ryan explained. “Some of the tenants seem to be well informed,” Ryan said. “Most are rehearsed to say that there are five people on the lease, and in fact very often there are only five people on the lease.”
District 2 council member Llatetra Brown Esters suggested the city work to expand inspections of houses that might be in violation and use neighbors and “telltale signs”— such as houses that advertise more than five available beds — to help enforce policies. The increase in student occupation of houses causes problems for longer-term residents, some council members said. Mayor Patrick Wojahn pointed out that parties and public drunkenness can detract from the quiet enjoyment of a neighborhood and general welfare longer-term residents are seeking. Wojahn believed further enforcement of the unruly social gathering ordinance would help to discourage landlords from buying property to sell to students. “The reason why I’m pushing on the unruly social gathering ordinance is because of the ability to potentially revoke the occupancy permit for repeat offenders,” Wojahn said. “Unless we enforce that ordinance, that threat … to a landlord isn’t going to be real.” At the same time, students face problems when turning to apartment complexes closer to campus, which can cost over $1,000 per month in rent. Cracking down on ordinance enforcement may jeopardize the ability of some students to access affordable living, said Megha Sevalia, a Student Government Association liaison to the council. “A lot of students are willing to break the occupancy limit and live in these houses, way above five unrelated members, because it’s their only affordable option,” Sevalia said. And investors looking to buy houses to rent out are becoming more commonplace. Several formerly owner-occupied houses — some of them owned for multiple decades, according to Kennedy — have been converted into rental properties across the city, District 3 council member John Rigg said. “I know from representing District
3 for a number of years that we’ve seen whole streets sort of convert,” Rigg said. Rigg also brought up the possibility of implementing a rent control policy, which has been tested in cities such as New York. This would ensure the availability of some affordable housing and could deter students from resorting to renting homes. College Park is allowed to have a rent stabilization law, according to city attorney Suellen Ferguson. But District 3 council member Robert Day believed it would be very difficult for prices to decrease. “That number of beds that gets built is never going to be enough,” Day said.
“It’s going to be really hard to outrun the demand to cause it to change the value or the cost of housing in College Park.” The problems of increasing rent and decreasing owner-occupied housing will continue to persist unless the council acts soon, Rigg argued. He pointed out that in Old Town, only a handful of owner-occupied houses remain. “There’s also I think a strong case to be made for action, because we’re losing our neighborhoods,” Rigg said. “Once these communities are gone, they’re gone.”
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Housing at a glance: From campus to College Park Students share experiences in local living options. By Hannah Ziegler | @ hannahzziegler | Staff writer Each year, University of Maryland students have a variety of on and off-campus housing options to choose from. As students prepare to enter leases for the 2021-22 academic year, some current residents of this university’s most popular housing options share their favorite and least favorite parts about their current living situations. The University View The University View, located at Route 1 and Berwyn House Road, boasts a variety of amenities that make Hamzah Yousuf feel at home. “Of all the apartment buildings in College Park, I wouldn’t live anywhere else,” the junior philosophy, politics and economics major said. The View has a starting rate of about $1,100, placing it in the mid-range of rent prices for off-campus apartments
in College Park. It is also the biggest off-campus apartment complex in College Park, housing about 1,600 students. Yousuf said the main criticism many students have against the View is its distance from campus. The main building of the complex is a roughly 17-minute walk. “I don’t think it’s a bad location in general because … we have restaurants here, we have everything you need,” Yousuf said. “But it’s a ‘bad’ location for students, especially people who have a lot of classes.” Yousuf appreciates the seclusion of the View from the rest of bustling campus life. Unlike competitors like the Varsity or Landmark, it is not directly adjacent to College Park nightlife, said junior government and politics major Nyah Stewart. “I like that the location is not near the bars, so it’s not really busy and loud all the time,” Stewart said.
the University View is one of several off-campus apartment complexes available to students. ines donfack/the diamondback
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Landmark is one of several off-campus apartment complexes available to students. file photo/the diamondback The Varsity The Varsity is located at Route 1 and Melbourne Place. Starting rates at the apartment complex range from $1,100 to just over $1,500 per month. Autumn Welsh’s favorite part of living at The Varsity is the size of her room. A lot of the other apartments she has seen have large common areas but smaller bedrooms, so the Varsity’s floor plan appealed to her. Welsh added the noise from Route 1 and Looney’s Pub, located under The Varsity, made her dislike her housing choice. She and her roommates can always hear students at the bars and traffic. “I really like my sleep, so it really makes me angry when I have to wake up because of all the drunk people yelling or fire trucks,” Welsh said. Maddy Shanahan, a junior enrolled in letters and sciences, added the Varsity’s amenities, including study rooms and a courtyard, are major benefits for her. But the long walk to campus and “boujee” atmosphere make her want to relocate to South Campus Commons next year. “Nobody even sits in here,” Shanahan said, motioning to The Varsity’s lobby of red and black furniture. Landmark For senior government and politics and economics major McKenna Fossile, living at Landmark Apartments for two years has been a pivotal part of her college experience. Fossile highlighted the Dunkin’ on the ground floor of Landmark as a sticking point that made her want to continue living there, as well as its prime location at the intersection of College Avenue and Route 1. “I think this is the best place to live on
campus,” she said. Sophomore nursing major Eric Hardy agrees. Despite only moving into Landmark this semester, he loves the complex’s central location and tight-knit community. “The staff at Landmark always does stuff for its residents,” Hardy said. “One day they went to all the floors and gave out breakfast.” Despite these perks, Hardy and Fossile voiced concerns about Landmark’s thin walls and maintenance issues. “With the rent that we’re paying, they could probably give us better amenities,” Hardy said. Hardy has experienced mold in his apartment bathroom due to malfunctioning fans, he said. Fossile added it often takes a while for her maintenance requests to be fulfilled. Apartments at Landmark start at a rate of about $1,300 per month, making it one of the most expensive off-campus housing options in College Park. Parkside Apartments Parkside Apartments, which is located off of Lakeland Road, is currently in the process of a $6 million renovation project, which aims to upgrade appliances and modernize the complex. This overhaul of the complex’s interior and new management company has “definitely improved” Parkside in the eyes of residents like Aisha Munawar. Munawar, a senior psychology major, moved into Parkside last year. She described the complex pre-renovation as “drab.” Now, Munawar thinks the complex looks like a hotel. “It was really boring, and the apartment that I lived in was not great, but now it’s a
lot more upbeat,” Munawar said. The biggest downside to living in Parkside for Munawar and her roommate, junior communication and psychology major Isabel Lee, is a lack of in-unit laundry. Each floor of Parkside has a communal laundry room, similar to many university dorms. Residents have to pay for laundry, and Lee says the washers and dryers are not big enough. This year, Parkside boasted one of the most affordable monthly rents in College Park. Units start at about $700 per month. Rent prices are set to increase next year to accommodate for the facilities updates. “I don’t think it’s worth it for this place,” Lee said. “It just seems kind of like money-hungry.” South Campus Commons South Campus Commons resident Caroline Klecka feels the biggest draw to the apartments is the location. With seven buildings, though, Klecka said her biggest issue is the inconsistency across different Commons facilities. Older buildings, such as Commons 1, provide a much different experience from newer buildings such as Commons 6 or 7, Klecka said. “Some [buildings] are much nicer than the others, and it’s hard to find that information online,” the junior journalism major said. “When we moved in, we had a lot of problems to deal with.” Klecka lives in Commons 3 and said her 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom rent is another benefit for the complex. Commons apartments start at a rate of around $950 per month. Rising juniors and seniors have first priority to live in South Campus Commons. Commons is a partnership with the university, meaning there are Resident Assistants on each floor.
For this reason, Klecka thinks Commons is a good housing option for sophomores who want to live with more amenities but still desire the structure of a dorm. “I would describe Commons as a relatively okay housing option,” Klecka said. “It can be either really good or not so good, depending on your location and your price point.” On-Campus Suites Sophomore aerospace engineering major AJ Rahr chose to live in a townhouse-style apartment in this university’s South Hill Community. Rahr lives with five roommates in Allegany Hall. Allegany is one of many on-campus housing options that the Department of Resident Life promotes to sophomores. “You’re still on campus, you’re still in a residence hall, you still have access to our staff … but you’re living in a type of housing that’s really different from your first year,” said Dennis Passarella-George, this university’s senior associate director of university housing partnerships. Though layouts vary, many South Hill community apartments come with a shared living space and small kitchens. Students opt into housing in the South Hill community in the same way they would sign up for dorm housing. The main distinction between these housing options and South Campus Commons is that students do not have a lease or monthly rent. Housing contracts in the South Hill community also do not run through the summer. Rahr recommends that sophomores get an apartment in the South Hill community because of the flexibility it provides. “I like living on campus, just being surrounded by people,” Rahr said. “I personally think that I made the best choice for me as a sophomore.”
baltimore hall is an on-campus housing option available to students. joe ryan/the diamondback
For transfer students, housing problems amplify stressful transition to UMD By Hannah Ziegler | @ hannahzziegler | Staff writer After receiving her acceptance letter to the University of Maryland for the fall 2021 semester, Macy Hamlin started the “battle” of finding housing near the campus. Hamlin, a junior public policy major who transferred from Dickinson College, pays for school on her own, and she wanted to secure off-campus housing to save money. But her acceptance letter to this university didn’t arrive until late July, leaving her with few affordable housing options in College Park. She ultimately decided to commute from her home in Carroll County this semester. She said the university did not provide enough support for transfer students admitted in the summer to find housing. “I get it, it’s a big university, there are a lot of kids, but it sucks when you can’t get someone on the phone to at least try and help,” Hamlin said. “I chose a new school wanting to finally feel at home somewhere … But I haven’t gotten that sigh of relief.” Transfer students like Hamlin say the difficulty finding housing makes the transition to a new university even more challenging. And they say the university could do more to help transfer students with their housing situations. Across the last five years, less than 5 percent of students living in on-campus housing have been transfer
students. This year, about 18 percent of all transfer students live in dorms, and they make up 4.5 percent of students living in dorms. The university offered more dorm housing this year than in previous years, according to a Department of Resident Life statement. The department provided on-campus housing to about 400 new transfer students — including Grace Carlo. Carlo is a sophomore journalism major who transferred from Xavier University this semester. By the time she learned of her admission to this university in late July, there was just over one week before students were scheduled to return to Xavier. Carlo applied to live on campus. She felt lucky when the university provided her with on-campus housing after about one week on the waitlist, she said. The university had previously told her not to get her hopes up, as freshmen and returning second-year students had the highest priority for on-campus housing. This low chance of receiving housing, paired with a lack of guidance on transfer housing from this university, frustrated Carlo. The only housing information she received was in her transfer student checklist, in a category that combined housing, dining and orientation steps. Carlo expected emails from this university giving
instructions on how to apply for housing and where to look. “I wouldn’t say that the university was super great about helping me find housing,” Carlo said. “It was all me taking the initiative to call UMD ResLife and ask what I should do to apply for housing.” In a statement, the Department of Resident Life said its staff “continues to work with students on the residence hall waiting list to offer housing as spaces become available.” When Adam Spaeth, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, transferred last fall, he also decided to take initiative on his own rather than rely on the university. Spaeth said the minimal help he received when looking for off-campus housing was “alarming.” “It was a little bit of a slap to the face,” Spaeth said. This university’s Off-Campus Housing Services provides a database where students can search for housing close to campus, according to a statement. But when Spaeth attempted to use the database, he found it unhelpful. When Spaeth settled for an apartment at The Enclave, he had no idea how far it was from this university’s main campus. After one semester, he chose to sublet a room at Terrapin Row via Facebook.
UMD to pause development of Guilford Woods following months of backlash The university will continue to study Guilford Woods to address environmental concerns related to the proposed development. By Anaya Truss-Williams, Christine Zhu, Khushboo Rathore and Ryan White | @anayatrusswill @christinezhu142 @kboorath and @ Ryan_White_237 | Staff writers
Protesters march toward the Main Administration building during the Save Guilford Woods protest on McKeldin Mall on Oct. 15, 2021. joe ryan/the diamondback The University of Maryland is pausing development on the Western Gateway project on Guilford Woods, university President Darryll Pines and GSG President Tamara Allard announced in an email on Oct. 28. The announcement follows months of backlash against the project, which activists say would deforest Guilford Woods — a wooded area on the southwest side of campus. The opposition reached a fervor earlier this fall when protesters filled McKeldin Mall, bearing tree branches and handmade signs. Proponents of the development say it could provide much-needed affordable graduate student housing. Instead of focusing on plans for graduate housing on Guilford Woods, the university will issue a Request for Expressions of Interest to partner with the administration to redevelop Old Leonardtown into a new mixed-income residential community prioritizing affordable and accessible graduate student housing, according to the email. In addition, the Division of Student Affairs is working with Maryland Economic Development Corporation and Capstone On-Campus Management to turn some garden-style apartments into graduate student housing. This university expects to provide nearby housing
options for about 90 graduate students by fall 2022, according to the email. The administration will continue to study the Guilford Woods area to address environmental concerns related to the proposed development, the email read, continuing the university’s commitment to achieve a Net-Zero Carbon Neutral campus by 2025. “We are excited for these upcoming projects and look forward to continuing work with graduate students on solutions and forward-looking approaches,” the email read. “It will take many partners working collaboratively toward shared goals.” A wave of relief fell over Jan-Michael Archer, a doctoral student in the public health school, when he heard that the university was putting a pause on planning the Western Gateway project. After months of organizing, Archer and other organizers feel that the university’s administration is taking their concerns “seriously.” “It’s also a relief because we’re not gonna let up,” he said. “There’s a long way to go — it wasn’t a commitment to save Guilford Woods.” Archer looks forward to having transparent discussions about graduate student housing and preserving green space.
Kislay Parashar, the SGA president, said that he believes undergraduate students will be happy about the announcement. Old Leonardtown could help solve the graduate housing issue, he added. Earlier this fall, the Student Government Association passed a bill calling on the administration to address environmental concerns about developing Guilford Woods. “This pause helps both the parties,” Parashar said. “It creates a way for graduate students and undergraduate students to work together on this topic again. Autumn Perkey, the Graduate Student Government legislative affairs vice president, said the Old Leonardtown project will be much easier to push forward. But the new housing solutions are not going to be enough to deal with the graduate student crisis. Perkey suggested other ways the university could expand graduate housing, such as converting undergraduate housing, buying and leasing out nearby townhomes, or even turning Greek Life houses into graduate living spaces. Similarly, Allard added that no single development will be able to solve the graduate student housing issue. Still, she said that this announcement is the best path forward for graduate student housing. “This is a starting point — this is not a finish line by any means,” Allard told The Diamondback. Allard said she appreciated the consideration that administration took by including the GSG in the conversation. Stuart Adams, a community advocate for Save Guilford Woods, said he was glad to see the letter signed by both Allard and Pines. He emphasized that this is an “interim success” for those advocating to preserve the wooded area. He’s hopeful for an alternative site for the Western Gateway project. “The housing crisis remains and just as much as you rally to save Guilford Woods, you also need to think about alternative sites for affordable graduate student housing,” Adams said. For other Guilford Woods advocates, like environmental health professor Amy Sapkota, the university’s decision spoke to the administration’s willingness to listen to concerns from students, faculty, staff and community members. Still, Sapkota realizes that the pause is only temporary. “We remain hopeful that this temporary pause will evolve into a decision to permanently preserve Guilford Woods, which is really an irreplaceable natural resource for our campus community,” Sapkota said.