University Village residents unhappy with 3 percent rent increase

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Andrew Kuo/File

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Residents of University Village are criticizing the announcement of a rent increase greater than what they had expected, saying the increase defeats the village’s purpose of providing affordable housing for students with families.

The rent increase — 3 percent, up 1.5 percent from last year — will be effective July 1 and could provide the campus with more than $550,000 in additional income annually. The Village Residents Association and a proposed ASUC bill, however, denounce the raise for placing undue financial burden on University Village students who often have dependents and low incomes.

Rent increases for University Village, campus-owned housing in Albany for students with families, were announced in May, and the first increase of 1.5 percent took effect July 1. Residential and Student Service Programs hoped to maintain this 1.5 percent increase each year for four years, according to Steve Sutton, assistant vice chancellor of RSSP.

An increase, however, was needed this year in part to the depletion of RSSP’s reserve funds created by a $32-million seismic retrofit of campus residential high-rise buildings, as well as increased labor costs due to a recently renegotiated contract with a UC workers union, Sutton said.

Though residents are not unilaterally opposed to rent increases, according to University Village resident and UC Berkeley senior Jeff Stock, they have been frustrated by the lack of communication from RSSP about where the campus will spend the extra rent money — between $40 and $60 more per residence per month from last year’s rates.

“The whole point of family housing is to support students who are parents … students taking loans for college are not going to save money for their own kids to go to college,” said Caitrin Connolly-Olszewski, a University Village resident. “It’s cyclical.”

While senior Alicia Hintzen, a village resident, said campus housing is not significantly less expensive than private housing in the area, Sutton said that University Village rent is about 10 percent lower than comparable residences.

“We want to petition them to postpone the rent increase until we can look at the data and come up with a counterproposal,” said Maria Stoop, a University Village resident.

SB 74, an ASUC bill introduced Thursday and coauthored by Independent Campaign for Common Sense Senator Solomon Nwoche, also urges RSSP to consider an alternative rent management strategy. It requests that the campus delay the rent increase by six months or until such a strategy is developed. Sutton, however, said this year’s increase has already been approved by the administration, but students can participate in discussing next year’s increase.

SB 74 is slated to be reviewed in the senate’s university and external affairs committee Monday.

A public meeting in University Village to address the rent increase will be held May 15.

Contact Sahil Chinoy at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @sahilchinoy_dc.