Where all Roads Lead

College students can relate to this sentiment from the master of monetary evil. Money: the lack of it de-fines student’s lives, guiding their every move. As students enter their third year at UVM, many choose to live off-campus in Burlington’s burgeoning student-resident community. While this is not an uncommon decision, it is far from an inexpensive one. Some students believe the rapidly rising cost of off-campus housing to be capitalistic greed at its most disgusting, but the causes are actually more complex. College-age tenants drive up insurance costs, leaving many landlords no choice but to in-crease rent; the students themselves are then stuck with the burden, trying to make the higher rent payments. Stefan Hermannsson, a UVM senior, lives on North Willard Street, located in the core college area. To combat the price inflation, Hermannsson and his roommates resorted to slightly unorthodox methods. “One way to get cheap rent in Burlington is to stick extra people in a house, even if it might be il-legal,” Hermannsson, currently living as the sixth person in a five-bedroom apartment, said. “Over the summer there were seven of us. Rent was really cheap then.” This year’s lease ended with troubling news for Her-mannsson and company: rent was to increase by 20 per-cent regardless of who stayed and who left. For one local landlord, Bob Jean of Green Mountain Rentals, the cost is outrageous and unreasonable. “It seems [insurance companies] would rather have junkies living in [their property] than college students,” Jean said. With a recent increase in property taxes coupled with high insurance rates, finding a reasonable rental in Burlington is challenging for students. But despite the cost of rent, most landlords still don’t have a hard time finding tenants. “Kids look a lot earlier than they used to,” said Eric Hanley, a local landlord of almost 20 years with properties on Orchard Terrace, Bradley Street and North Union Street. This year, it wasn’t uncommon for tenants to sign leases in December. In the past, spring break often marked the starting gate for the apartment search process. But with UVM’s student body ex-ploding, competition has likewise grown. Chuck Perkins, a local landlord with property on Green Street and South Willard Street, has also noticed an increased demand for apartments, especially those in a small band of strategically located property across Burlington. “Students want to be halfway between the bars and campus – be-tween night life and day life,” Perkins said. “These areas always have a higher demand because of location.” Ellie Fallon, a UVM senior, lives with six other girls in a house with four names on the lease. “Over the last year, rent has increased by almost $50 each, but it’s still cheap because there are so many of us living there,” she said. For sophomore Jon Mandel, finding a reasonable rent proved impos-sible. “My ideal range was between $650 and $700,” he said. Not able to find an appealing location with what he considered reasonable rent, Mandel decided on a backup plan: moving into his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, for his junior year. Sophomore Resident Assistant Nicole Henderson-Roy had to make a similar decision: live independent from UVM, or rely on more cost effective UVM resi-dence halls? “It doesn’t seem worth it to take out extra loans [to afford off-campus living],” she said. “The free room and board as an RA is a benefit too.” For Jean, with the loss of a college student tenant in one build-ing, insurance decreased one-third. Having a college student as a tenant substantially drives up a landlord’s in-surance he said. Many companies will not ap-prove insurance policies for buildings that have student tenants, Joanne Gile, the select account executive at Hickock & Boardman Insurance Agency, said. “College-age students are more of a liability,” Gile said. “A tenant could throw a party and a guest could drink too much and fall over a porch railing. There are [also] more claims to destruction of property, such as fists through walls,” she said. Most policies dealing with college-age tenants go with a higher risk, making them more expensive for landlords, Patty Kimball, an insurance agent also at Hickock and Boardman said. Perkins lives in one of the buildings he also rents out on South Willard Street and can re-late to this unattractive image of college students. “I can hear and see groups of students in the street at 2:30 a.m. being loud and disrespectful to others in the neighborhood,” he said. “Most students are probably not insurance risks, but it becomes a generational issue. The agents working in insurance companies are older; it comes down to different generations and how they choose to live,” he said. While he can relate to the insurance agency’s views on the collegiate risk factor, he aso can’t help but wonder if all this price jacking doesn’t amount to age dis-crimination. “I think [stigma around college students] is a gen-eralization. I would consider it age discrimination,” senior Laura Cohen said. John Schafer, another senior, agreed. “Compared to other towns, [rent] is definitely too much. I … feel discriminated against,” he said. Eric Hanley said he increased rent this year by $200 for his four-bedroom apartment on Orchard Terrace. “I had to because of the tax increases,” he said. Han-ley, like many Burlington landlords, has been forced to raise rent prices in order to accommodate recent tax increases. Burlington property taxes have been climbing steadily since the recent reappraisal of properties. Some land values de-creased with the new evaluations, but the majority increased, John Stuart, Burlington’s chief accountant, said. City taxes have increased in the past two years, a raise at-tributed to funding a retirement system for city employees, he said. “A lot of it is city greed,” Perkins said. The property he owns on South Willard Street was reappraised for double what he bought it for almost five years ago, without any major renovations and all due to a tax and property value increase. UVM recently announced a 10-year plan to increase undergradu-ate enrollment by 2,000 and graduate enrollment by 1,400 – an increase that will demand more off-campus housing for students, subsequently causing another raise in rental costs. “It seems like as long as there is a need for students to live off cam-pus, rent prices will continue to increase with college students being forced to dig into their pockets to meet the costs,” Fiori said. The situation is fast becoming an unbreakable circle, tied together by the almighty and all-encompassing dollar bill. Meanwhile, UVM students and their parents continue to throw huge sums of money at their living ex-penses, unable to break free.