As students begin to settle into the spring semester and adjust to new schedules, there is a nagging question that begins to worm its way into the campus consciousness: Who will I live with next year, and where? For some, the answer to that question may come in the form of a housing leas
e. For many others, it means facing the dreaded housing lottery. Regardless of your living plans for next year, it is important to consider all options, make backup plans, and get started… now.
If you’re a student who prefers the convenience of living on campus, the housing lottery is an inevitable part of the process. The lottery essentially wo
rks by assigning each student a day and a time for housing selection. Rising seniors go first, then rising juniors, then rising sophomores with the last pick. This system has been used for years by the University, but is now only in its second year online.
According to Executive Director of Residential Life and Housing Services Laurel Contomanolis, the system had a very smooth rollout last year and will be used with very few modifications this year. “Whenever you do something new, there are going to be people who like it and people who don’t like it, but it really worked out exactly the way we expected it to,” Contomanolis said.
Some current sophomores, however, would not describe the process as smooth. Each year, a certain number of students (usually rising sophomores) find that their housing options are extremely limited when their lottery time is up. These students are usually put on a waiting list to be assigned housing by Residential Life over the summer.
Sarah Jensen, a current sophomore, was one of the students to be put on this list last year. “My roommate and I were planning on getting a suite in Towers with four of our friends,” Jensen explained. “But none of us had good lottery times, so when it was our turn, we realized that there were no more suites available anywhere, even in Southside.”
Jensen and her roommate added their names to a growing list of displaced sophomores and were informed in July that they would be living in a suite in Towers with four other unknown girls. Although she received her first housing preference, Jensen remains apprehensive about the lotterysystem. “I’m less worried about it this year since we will be juniors — but we will definitely make backup plans.” Jensen’s story reflects that of many students last year who felt that there was an unusually limited amount of space for them.
While many people interpreted last year’s housing shortages as an upward trend or a “failure” of the lottery system, Contomanolis emphasizes that the numbers of unassigned students remaining after last year’s lottery was not a unique event. “Probably for the last twenty years, there have been people unassigned after the room selection process,” she said. “A lot of that happens because there will be more people that apply than were counted on, and sometimes it happens because people who are not sure if they’re studying abroad hedge a bet and put their name down for a room. We spend a lot of the summer going through that.”
In the case of last year, there was an unexpected number of rising seniors who desired to live on campus their final year, up to 70% from the usual 62%. This put added pressure on the lower lottery numbers, but it is not a pressure that Contomanolis expects to persist or intensify.
However, in the event that senior demand for on-campus housing is high again this year, there is fresh relief: the newest dorm building, known as “Brooks Crossing,” is scheduled to open on Aug. 1. This building, open to juniors and seniors, will include ten floors of residential housing offering one to four bedroom apartments, each equipped with a full kitchen, living room, and individual bathrooms. There are plans to rent the bottom floor to a restaurant.
Brooks Crossing will provide an option for upperclassmen that is conveniently located between on-campus and off-campus living, and may shorten the list of students left without living arrangements after the lottery.
For other students, the independence and inexpensiveness promised by off-campus housing are too great to resist. There are a variety of resources available to these students looking to start the housing search. Residential Life works closely with off-campus housing providers to ensure that secure and affordable housing is available to students—in fact, they will be hosting an Off-Campus Housing Fair on Feb. 18, during which students will have to opportunity to learn about off-campus options and speak with landlords.
One such landlord is Scott Beck, a man who has become known to many Rochester students as the owner of Rochester Student Housing, one of the main off-campus housing providers specializing in properties in the Brook’s Landing area.
Beck began his company five years ago with an initial purchase of one house that he began renting out to students. Now, he rents twenty-five houses to approximately eighty students on a yearly basis. All of his properties are within three or four blocks from the footbridge and are usually recently renovated two to four bedroom properties that he rents out for $400-500 per bedroom per month, a fraction of the on-campus living cost.
Many students recognize this is a good deal, so if you’re looking into off-campus housing, the sooner you act the better. According to Beck, “The best properties go first. If you wait until April, a lot of the spaces will be rented out for next year.”
This seems to be the general advice for planning housing arrangements. No matter where you plan on living, it is best to start early, know your information, and have a backup plan.
Cowie-Haskell is a member of the class of 2016.