Housing lottery causes concern as on-campus residents face shortage of space

On Feb. 20, junior Gerald Cowen logged on to myUM to discover that he is one of the 17 percent of students not guaranteed housing next year.

On that same day, Cowen also started Facebook pages named “UMiami Housing Crisis” and “Homeless Canes” to voice his concerns about the problems with housing this year.

“The housing system is unnecessarily complicated,” he said. “We should be working to fix housing instead of sending so many people off campus.”

For Cowen, the source of the problem is the housing lottery that existed for three years now.

During the beginning of the housing process, students have approximately two weeks to “opt-in” for on-campus housing the following year. Based on the opt-in results, the Department of Housing and Residential Life then decides if a lottery is necessary. According to housing information document on the department’s website, “the available space would meet the identified needs of the opt-in pool and no lottery would be necessary this year.” Currently, there are 2,142 housing spots on campus.

According to Vice President for Student Affairs Pat Whitely, 2,454 students, or 83 percent, out of the 2,970 who “opted-in” were guaranteed housing; the remaining 496 students cannot currently be accommodated with on-campus housing.

If these students continue to show interest in on-campus accommodations, they then have to be placed on a prioritized waitlist, which can be accessed via a link in the “Life at UM” tab in myUM.

Though the link was supposed to appear at midnight on February 21, The Housing Office’s Facebook page began to receive an influx of confused students not able to find the link.

Cowen attributes the link’s problem to “routine system maintenance,” causing students who were up at midnight to possibly lose a spot. Cowen stayed up for two hours but was not successful until 8 a.m.

Sophomore Charlotte Pechtl, who applied for housing and did not get it, feels that the waitlist helps but does not address the situation with certainty.

“The waiting list does seem to be fair,” Pechtl said. “It’s just an added stress that I don’t have housing right now.”

Whitely suggests that all students who are not given housing apply to the waitlist.

“We are confident that many students will receive an assignment if they apply as soon as possible for the prioritized waitlist,” she said.

Students who currently have private, single rooms in Eaton, Mahoney and Pearson Residential Colleges or who are University Village residents are guaranteed housing with the opt-in process. In the event that students do not have the opportunity to acquire on-campus after the waitlist, the Housing Office can aid them in finding off-campus accommodations.

Pechtl is considering moving to nearby off-campus sites.

“I’m looking at the Red Road apartments and a few other places with my friends,” she said. “That seems to be the more popular option because people are fed up with the unfair lottery.”

Today, Cowen still remains without a clear idea of housing for next year and has deleted his Facebook pages, hoping for a resolution.

“Instead of spending 42 million dollars on a new student center, they should be building new dorms,” he said.