After latest housing debacle, students prepare for the worst

Lakeside Village Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Some students transfer colleges because a different school has a better academic reputation. Others transfer to stay closer to home.

Now students at the University of Miami must consider a new factor: there is no housing for them.

“One of my friends told me that she is transferring because she cannot afford housing in Miami,” freshman psychology and criminology major Olivia Vanesko said. “Honestly, I don’t blame her.”

For the past month, UM students have been trying to register for 2023-2024 on-campus housing. However, new policies implemented by Housing & Residential Life (HRL) and an overwhelming demand of applicants has caused another year of students scrambling to find housing.

Nalia Charania is a sophomore studying finance who had a 9:15am reservation to secure a 4-bedroom apartment in the University Village (UV), 15 minutes after registration opened. However, when she tried to register, there were no apartments for her to choose from.

“I’ve been really distraught since,” Charania said. “My group did everything that they asked us to do, registering early and being in a group of 4 and still we got left out.”

According to Charania, many of the four-bedroom apartments were only partially filled, with only three or less occupied bedrooms.She soon realized she also could not leave her four-person group to fill another bedroom spot. Not being able to fill any spots angered Charania, as she noted that housing specifically announced they would prioritize four-bedroom apartments over any other arrangement.

“So, when we were looking for 4-bedrooms, there were a lot, but only a maximum of 3 bedrooms available in those apartments” Charania said. “We could not leave our group to fill the fourth spot.”

Since Charania could not break from her group to fill other bedrooms, she now must join a waiting list until a potential spot becomes available.

“My group thought we’ll just put three people in one room of three and then put one person in a room of one and at least we would all get housing,” Charania said. “But they didn’t let us separate from our group so none of us have housing.”

HRL’s recent policy allowing students to hold their current rooms in UV for the upcoming year, led to the increase in partially filled rooms. It allows for fewer entirely open apartments as some current students may stay for the next year while others may choose to live off-campus or graduate.

“They don’t need the same room,” Charania said about the students who have reserved rooms in the UV. “They have to move their stuff out of there anyways, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Even though UV is the only housing facility that is allowing students to hold their room for the 2023-2024 academic year, other student housing options are having the same issue with limited open apartments. Vanesko, who like Charania had an early time slot for a four-bedroom apartment in Lakeside Village, was shut out from any apartments.

“Before my time to register began, I saw other kids in my class on the housing portal website,” Vanesko, who had an appointment at 9:30 am on Friday, said. “Now I have to plan for the worst-case scenario.”

HRL’s decision to prevent groups from separating during the housing selection process allowed for those with later times to still have access to rooms.

“In an effort to streamline the selection process, avoid confusion, and allow students to receive more than one appointment time in the same day, roommate groups were locked into place by the February 9, 11:59 p.m. deadline,” said Richard Sobaram, assistant vice-president of Student Affairs-Housing Strategic Initiatives. “Allowing these groups to break up would give them an unfair advantage, because once the 4-bedroom units sellout they could simply decouple themselves and select the available bedrooms, leaving nothing or very little for the students who were in a group of 1.”

Vanesko fears that she will not be able to afford any housing near campus. Currently, UM covers her housing via financial aid. Rent near campus has reached record levels since the COVID-19 pandemic and she does not have a car to commute from somewhere more affordable.

“I personally cannot afford to live off campus and I won’t have a car,” Vanesko said said. “My family has already sacrificed so much for me to be here in the first place and it’s going to be even harder now.”

Many students are competing for apartments with older adults who have a better credit score, can move in immediately and start a bidding war if needed. UM students must manage this while trying to juggle their academic obligations..

“I don’t know why they decided to choose this time for housing registration to happen,” Doménica Núñez del Arco Abad, a sophomore business analytics and computer science major, said. “As a student, in the middle of midterms, I don’t have the time in my day to be calling ten different places for housing.”

Núñez is also from Ecuador, making it even harder to try to go through any off-campus housing process. Neither herself nor her family have a social security number or even a credit score, both asked for when filling out a housing application.

“As an international student, you don’t even have a social security number,” Núñez said. “It’s so much more difficult to acclimate to the real estate environment in the United States.”

Sobaram has acknowledged that HRL is making sure that students will be assisted with trying to find housing off-campus through the school. They are hosting an off-campus housing fair later this semester.

“HRL has developed relationships with many off-campus complexes to help students,” Sobaram said. “We have hired a full-time off campus housing coordinator to assist students and families.”

While students are trying to stay on the on-campus waiting list to see if anything fills up, some are worried that if they stay on too late then they will not be able to find any off-campus housing if they are rejected. Before the 2022-2023 academic year, some students found out they had housing in June, after the previous school year ended, while others had to live in hotel rooms at the THesis hotel .

“I don’t want to have to wait until June to know if I have housing next year,” Charania said. “I’m trying to find off-campus housing while still hoping somehow that I will find a play on campus and it’s hard.”

Sobaram says that HRL tried to make sure that students this year had an equal chance of receiving housing. Even still, he acknowledged that there were issues trying to ensure that the process went smoothly for students.

“There was an unprecedented number of applicants again this year for on-campus housing,” Sobaram said. “Due to the demand versus available inventory, many room types sold out quickly.”

While HRL said that the amount of applicants is unprecedented this year, students like Vanesko are upset that they did not learn from last year’s housing debacle where students did not have an opportunity to sign up for housing. Instead, with tuition rising yet again, students have to figure out if they can continue being ‘Canes for the foreseeable future.

“My theory is that at any major university, no one should be forced to live off campus,” Vanesko said. “If you’re going to be accepting this many people, you should have space for them and you definitely shouldn’t be charging them $80,000 a year to be essentially homeless.”