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University housing rates to increase

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For the majority of students who live on campus, the rent is about to go up.

Under a plan approved by the university’s trustees, approximately 375 of the 540 students who live in Residence Hall One and the University Student Center will see their rent go up by 7 percent in each of the next two years and 4 percent in the fall of 2019.

That means, for example, that a single in RHO that costs $3,922 this semester will increase to $4,200 per semester in the fall, $4,490 per semester in fall 2018 and $4,680 in fall 2019 – or a cumulative annual growth rate of 6 percent. (See chart below)

An RHO single is apartment-style accommodations with four individual bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a common room.

The 165 students who live in rooms that have been reconfigured to add an extra bed or two will not see a rent increase.        

The university has raised housing rates only once in the past four years, said Joe Trubacz, the university’s regional vice chancellor for administrative and financial services. During that period, several other state universities raised their rates every year.

“Housing rates are more like a rental rate and costs like electrical, utilities, and internet continue to go up,” he said. “There comes a point when we need to raise our rates to get these costs covered.”

For four decades, USF St. Petersburg was strictly a commuter school without campus housing. But that changed as the university grew in size and ambition.

RHO, which houses 340 students on seven floors, opened in 2006, and the USC residence hall, which has 200 students on five floors, opened in 2012.

In 2010, the university began contracting with the nearby Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront hotel to handle the overflow. Twenty students are living there this semester under a contract that USFSP has with the hotel.

On average, a two-person room at the Hilton costs $1,000 more than a double unit on campus in the fall semester and $2,000 more in the spring semester, which falls during the busy winter tourist season, when most hotels raise their rates.

Increasing on-campus housing is one of the university’s long-term priorities.

Research shows that campus housing improves both student retention and graduation rates, university officials said. Students feel “more connected to campus life,” with greater access to university activities, resources and faculty.

Under the university’s latest 10-year master plan, the campus would grow from its current student population of 4,725 to about 10,000 by 2025. Campus housing would increase as well.   

The plan calls for additional housing for approximately 900 students that would be built in three phases.

Trubacz said the first phase, a 550-bed facility, will be built on the north side of Sixth Avenue S between Third and Fourth streets, replacing the parking lot just south of the soccer recreation field.

That building, Trubacz said, is projected to be nine floors high with dining on the first floor, housing on the next seven, and a conference center on the top floor.

Five developers are bidding for the project and will present their proposals next month. The Florida Board of Governors – the 17-member board that oversees the state’s public university system – is expected to give final approval this spring. The building is scheduled to open in 2019.

The next two proposed housing phases have not yet been approved. One would add 200 to 250 beds on the west side of the USC. The third phase would add 150 to 200 beds for upperclassmen in a building on the northeast corner of the campus just east of RHO.

That would mean that in the future, “as soon as you come from downtown, the first building you see will be upper division housing,” Trubacz said.

The rent for campus housing covers more than maintenance, electricity, cable and water, said Scott Hendershot, the university’s assistant director of housing and residence life.

“At a regular (off-campus) apartment, you’re paying for the space and that’s about all,” he said. “Living on campus you get the experience of having a residence life staff really building that community.”

Hendershot said campus housing is now at 121 percent capacity. One hundred percent means all the beds on campus are taken; the additional 21 percent comes from adding extra beds to certain rooms and using the Hilton.

“Being at 121 percent occupancy means that there is a definite need for students to live on campus,” said Hendershot, “and there’s a need for us to have more on-campus housing.

“Once people see there is an option for a more traditional residential experience, we’re going to get even more students,” said Hendershot. “It’s going to be cheaper than living downtown.”

For years, the university was within walking distance or a short drive of hundreds of small, modestly priced apartment buildings, duplexes and single-family homes that housed a number of USFSP students.

But when the city’s long-dormant downtown core began coming to life in the early 2000s, those modest housing units were gradually supplanted by high-rise condominiums and apartment buildings that dramatically drove up downtown housing prices.

For example, the 13-story Salvador condominium tower is near completion on Fifth Avenue S, just steps from RHO. Its 74 condos, now 90 percent sold, start at $350,000, according to its website.

Just up the street, at 330 Third St. S, the new 17-story AER apartment building charges monthly rents ranging from $1,795 for a studio to $3,300 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit.

Trubacz said the university approached AER managers about getting a block of rooms for overflow student housing in an arrangement like its contract with the Hilton.

AER declined, but said it would rent to individual students who can afford it, Trubacz said.     

Comment(1)

  1. DO NOT MOVE INTO THIS PROPERTY without spending some time in the units. I moved in at the beginning of October and fully furnished a 1br unit. The first night there I did not sleep. There was a buzzing like I was standing under a power line. Even if I turned the music or TV on which I can easily sleep through, it was as if an electrical field was going through me. I could not read in the den or sleep. The sound that went right to my nerves and aggravated me to death. The next day I notified the building management as well as the super. Typically when viewing the unit I did a quick walkthrough and went down and signed the lease. I have never had a problem like this in all of the properties I have owned or rented. I went to management and they said they would look into it so I decided to give them a chance and moved into a hotel. I called almost every day. Mind you nooone called me. Building ownership said they building passed the CO. so not interested. City inspectors came over and heard or rather felt the sound but unfortunelty had no way to help since the decibel level was below acceptable limits and there was no precendent. It is a sound you can feel so there is no precedence or department to address it is what the inspector relayed to me.

    DO NOT MOVE INTO THIS PROPERTY
    Everything was suggested to me from poorly mounted mechanicals to other construction issues from contractors that I’ve work with which I relayed to management. I don’t know what the issue is but I have owned apartment buildings and have lived in enough to know that this is not a normal building sound. It does not shut off or lower. I also believe that management knows about this problem we all have the right to quiet enjoyment of any place we rent, but not to be able to sleep and not being made aware of a know issue prior to purchasing furniture and moving in. The building super was amazing and tried shutting off the air conditioners all around the unit, unfortunately it did not help. After numerous tries and only staying there 3 nights during the month I officially gave notice toward end of October.

    The building is charging me a $4,360 fee lease cancellation to leave. My furniture had tags and I did not move in or have cable to the unit turned on. I have heard rumors that the building is for sale which would make sense.If they are trying to sell the building, I hope the buyers are made aware of the issue. I would warn anyone looking at this property to spend an hour in the unit prior to renting. It is a beautiful property. Unfortunately I need to sleep. I am sure the building will respond to this email which I would disregard. They should have addressed it while I was renting there. This situation was handled despicably and if I did not have the resources to stay in a hotel I’m not sure what I would have done. Not sure where management thought I was sleeping after the 2nd of October. I have never commented online about anything but again anyone moving in to the building should be made aware of the issue prior to spending any money. Management should understand that they are renting homes and not just collecting rents and fees. I purchased new furniture and didn’t sleep in or have use of what I was paying for. The disruption to my life, the expense moving in and out as well as the aggravation and then having to pay the lease fee to leave is probably the most disgusting customer service or management I have experienced. Mind you I’ve owned real estate, rental properties and a management company before. If anyone has the same issue please email aer@cambridgecapital.org so we can connect.

    PLEASE READ BEFORE MOVING INTO THIS BUILDING!!!

    Doug Thaler

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