Hell-bound housing

For rat infestations, water leaking from the ceiling, sketchy heating and flaky landlords, students in Burlington can pay a mere $1400 per month. It’s accepted that you’re going to be overpaying if you rent in Burlington, but many students don’t understand why, and The Cynic joins them, questioning: Why? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national vacancy rate for rental properties hit an all-time high at 10 percent last year. With Burlington vacancy rates hovering between one and three percent and a steady flow of demand from students moving off campus, Burlington has one of the lowest rates in the country. According to Statewide Housing Services, a healthy and fair renting market would provide somewhere around 5 percent vacancy. Of course, if you want to live near a campus like American University, you may be paying $4000 per month for two bedrooms, but this is Burlington — don’t flatter yourself. Landlords and property owners are taking advantage of the financial situation many students find themselves in after two or three years of college. Living on campus is expensive, and the requirement of signing up for a meal plan makes it even more costly. Living off campus is supposed to help you control your spending. Additionally, students simply want to live off campus when they get closer to graduation because everybody else does; it’s what you’re “supposed to do.” So, the choice to live on campus for three or four years is pretty unrealistic, and probably wouldn’t save you any money. The University is trying to look optimistically at the situation by hosting workshops that teach students how to look for good deals and fair rents. However, the choices are few, and often students will get locked into leases that empty their pockets and their parents’ bank accounts. We seem to be at the mercy of this niche market. For students, it seems hopeless — what they pay for a dirty and broken down apartment in Burlington could get them a beautiful place in a big city with a more competitive market. If you think we’re just being picky, visit any other school in a city the size of Burlington and see how students live for $1400 per month in a two bedroom.   Many students pay these prices for places that have uncontrollable heating, Plexiglas windows or warped floors. There is no easy solution to this problem; property owners love the low vacancy rates and high demand, and students aren’t going to stop moving off campus. The only fix is to build more rental properties in the little space Burlington has left. These prices are ridiculous — the profit that landlords and property owners are turning over year to year are big, and, because of the low vacancy rate, unchecked. We need to saturate the market with more competition and more houses, so students can stop getting ripped off and start seeing how the real world works.