Unlike some universities, Virginia Tech does not require students to live on campus beyond their freshman year. As a result, for many students the apartment hunting frenzy begins early in the fall. While many students planning to live off campus in the next year have started their search, numerous students have been faced with hiked-up rent prices compared to previous years.
According to a 2020 housing market profile from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, apartment market conditions in Blacksburg are very tight due to the high demand for apartments from the student population. In the first quarter of 2020, the average apartment rent increased 12% from the previous year, whereas in the first quarter of 2019, it had increased 3%. Because students prefer to live close to campus, management companies were able to increase rent while retaining low vacancy rates, causing prices to rise for another year.
Aidan Mosher, a sophomore studying political science, is currently living in Collegiate Suites, but recently discovered that his rent would be going up significantly for the next year. He believes part of the reason is due to his complex’s plans to add new furniture, among other improvements.
“I think I was surprised by how much it jumped. I’ve been looking at different housing options now,” Mosher said.
Mosher said that he experienced the same issue with rent increases last year when first looking for off-campus housing, but does not know if competition from other complexes has impacted his own rent or not.
“Last year, when me and my roommates were looking for apartments, we were considering The Village, and then that (rent) jumped up randomly 200 dollars,” Mosher said. “I don’t know if the other places’ rent has affected that or not, but I’ve seen it across multiple areas, not just where I’m living now.”
Sarah Golliver, a leasing professional for Collegiate Suites, explained that the roughly 30% rent increase came about due to a change in management to Coastal Ridge Real Estate. Coastal Ridge also took over Hunters Ridge, Terrace View and Maple Ridge — all popular apartment complexes that students flock to every year.
“They came in and did the evaluation of the entire area and all of the other apartment complexes around us, market survey stuff, and they determined that we needed to be brought up to market value,” Golliver said. “We were well below market value compared to a lot of the other apartments around us. They were kind of bringing us back up to the market value around us, and we still have lower prices compared to other apartment complexes around us.”
The demand for student housing is high enough that Collegiate Suites does not anticipate any negative impact on retention of student residents despite the rent increase.
“I still think we are remaining very competitive; we are filling up very quickly as we speak,” Golliver said. “We just opened leasing on Friday and we have, I don’t know the exact number, but we have received a lot of applications. We are expecting to be completely pre-leased for next year hopefully by the end of the month. Collegiate Suites is always one of the first places to sell out of apartments and we’re still expecting to be one of the first to go.”
The demand for off-campus rental apartments by students are also affecting housing prices for the rest of the population in Blacksburg as well, especially low to median income earners, according to a comprehensive plan on housing developed by the Planning and Building Department of Blacksburg. On average, real estate prices in Blacksburg are higher than anywhere else in the New River Valley, and student demand for housing has bumped up the price of rental properties and reduced the affordable housing options in the area. This can lead to difficulty in renting or buying a house affordably for some residents, and they can be forced to sacrifice other costs of living, such as food or medical care.
Many efforts have been made to alleviate this problem, with varying degrees of success. In January of this year, Delegate Chris Hurst introduced a bill that would limit student housing in Blacksburg. The bill stated that “the Blacksburg Town Council is authorized to accept, as part of residential re-zonings, voluntary proffered conditions that would limit or prohibit occupancy by undergraduate students or persons under the age of 23, unless such persons are part of a family.”
The bill, however, was killed by Hurst only a couple of days after it was introduced, the reason being that he realized the issue needed to be thought through more before further action was taken.
Other attempts have been more successful, and the Planning and Building Department of Blacksburg’s comprehensive plan outlines some of the improvements the town has seen over the last 15 years. They include the building or rehabilitating of 67 homes for low- or moderate-income households as well as $35 million being funneled into the NRV to support affordable housing.
Students looking for resources to find off-campus housing can reach out to Off-Campus Housing, a part of Student Engagement and Campus Life, and set up an appointment, find roommates, or list their property for rent or sublet. The Off-Campus Housing Fair is another resource for more information, scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 26, in the Commonwealth Ballroom in Squires Student Center.