Arts & CultureCover StoryHousing

Rent around the University of Oregon campus is on the rise

Rent prices are the highest Eugene has seen in years.

The experience of living parent-free and making the transition into college life is an exciting leap into the unfamiliar. However, today’s rental companies may have students jumping through hoops to afford it.

As many students are paying rent for the first time, it becomes difficult to know what should constitute a reasonable price, and a precedent is set based on word of mouth – from the rates their friends are paying, to the numbers they’re seeing in leasing companies’ persistent advertising.

Are students unknowingly becoming compliant with a more expensive standard?

According to the 2013 census data, the median monthly housing cost in Eugene was $1,021 — a 22 percent increase since the 2008-2010 median rent of $838. This is higher than nearby cities, including Salem, Springfield and even rival college town Corvallis, where median rent was $871. The cost of renting in Eugene is on average only $143 less than the median monthly price to live in Portland. To put these numbers within a larger picture, the Oregon monthly median cost is $991 and the national median cost is $1,021 — directly matching Eugene.

Eugene has the second highest number of total housing units in the state of Oregon, trailing behind Portland. Rented properties make up half of this number, and have only continued to increase with each passing year. Approximately 1,529 renter-occupied housing units were added between 2011 and 2013 alone. However, even with added living accommodations and more that are scheduled to become available in 2015 (The Hub, Ecco Apartments or 2125 Franklin), rental prices continue to rise.

College students make up 17 percent of Eugene — having 27,364 enrolled in undergraduate and graduate school. This means about one out of five people living in Eugene is a college student, whether that’s at the University of Oregon, Lane Community College or Northwest Christian University.

The gross rent as a percentage of income in Eugene is most commonly 35 percent or more – the highest possible census response.

At this rate, people are likely to struggle to pay rent while also buying food or paying tuition.

“Like most students, I absolutely struggle with additional expenses such as buying groceries and paying for tuition, but I can’t say I have it as bad as some students who live at more expensive places,” UO senior Jordan Hathorne said. “I have also heard (the statistics of Eugene rental costs) and it deeply saddens me.”

Accumulating to this sadness is a belief that while some companies want to build around campuses specifically to provide for students, there is often a lack of consideration for student budget or welfare, either perceived or real.

Hathorne is a community assistant at Capri Apartments. He says it is not uncommon for the company to set up a payment plan or work with a student on their rent.

“It’s not a marketing strategy or a way to get units filled — we just know that if we treat students with respect and fairness our business will do well, even in a competitive market,” Hathorne said.

As rent escalates, so do expectations. When students show concern for high rent costs, it often ties into problems they have experienced at apartment complexes.

Kristina Rouse, who graduated in fall 2014, described several complaints she had about her former apartment complex 13th & Olive, stating at the end that: “Overall the somewhat nice amenities are not worth all the hassle of dealing with all the problems of this complex.”

“I believe that costs were too high,” Rouse said.”Especially since this was the first year the apartment was open and there were a lot of issues going on – things that never happened that I was told would happen.”

For example, Rouse says she was told before signing her lease that there would be cameras, but says they were never installed before she left. In November of 2014, the Emerald published an article describing the experience of four other 13th & Olive residents who found their new apartment to be less than adequate with damage, leaks and ongoing construction upon move-in.

“We respect the privacy of our residents and do not wish to discuss any resident’s concerns publicly,” said Sheena Carpenter, a new property manager of 13th & Olive when asked recently about Rouse’s complaint. “What I can tell you is that there has only been one manager prior to my arrival two weeks ago.”

She invites any resident or parent to meet with her personally to discuss their concerns regarding 13th & Olive.

Although students may not see prices at all-time lows, they do have options as far as making smart rental judgments.

Hathorne advises students to thoroughly read through their lease contract before signing, ask questions and shop around for housing until it just feels right.

“If anything feels forced or sketchy during the signing of a lease contract, I always encourage student to just leave,” Hathorne said. “There are now plenty of options in the Eugene community and students ultimately have the power over the housing companies.”

All numbers received and calculated from Census data.

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Sydney Zuelke

Sydney Zuelke