Record high rents: Students struggle to find affordable housing in college towns

USA Today – Uncertainty around colleges reopening this fall led many students to delay their housing decisions. Now, they are struggling to find a place to live weeks before classes start, according to a survey from, a digital real estate site

The survey was conducted from July 12 to July 17, with over 500 current and recent college graduates participating. Thirty-five percent said they cannot afford to rent an apartment in their college town and 19% are relying on parental help to pay rent, something they didn’t need to do last year. 

Forty-four percent said the overall real estate market is to blame. 

Kayla Krueger, 19, is a college student at the University of Oregon in Eugene and struggled to find housing for the upcoming school year. 

“We wanted to try to find a house to live in,” she said. “Apartments are often expensive and offer a bunch of extra amenities we  don’t really need.”  

College students are struggling to afford an apartment in their college town for the upcoming school year.
Danielle Guidice For Florida Today

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In June this year,  there’s an 8.1% rent increase from last year, with median rent hitting $1,575 in the 50 largest metro areas. In 44 of the 50 largest markets, rent prices in June reached a record-breaking high and, on average, people are paying almost $150 more a month.

What’s COVID’s impact on real estate?

Housing prices increased during the pandemic, leaving many prospective homebuyers looking for rental properties instead, resulting in higher median rent, says economist George Ratiu. The pandemic has spurred retirees and remote workers to move to more attractive areas, he adds, making it even more challenging for college students.

“With Americans embracing a return toward a new normal, businesses reopening, and pandemic restrictions lifting, demand for rental properties is rising,” Ratiu told USA TODAY. “Many college towns have become highly attractive destinations to both retirees looking for quality of life, and young families looking for affordability and good schools, further adding to demand.”

The rent increases are only one of the factors behind the inability of many students to secure a place for the fall.

Thirty percent of students delayed confirming fall housing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Many weren’t sure whether they would have in-person classes or spend another year at Zoom university. The long wait cost about 22% of students a slot in on-campus housing, and 30% said securing housing was harder this year than last year.

“It was a stressful process because people were already starting to look for housing back in January,” Krueger said. “I wanted a house from the beginning, and I always pictured myself living in one, but since I got a late start,  I dismissed my desires.” 

Kreuger and her five roommates began searching at the beginning of February and by the end of the month, they were approved for a seven-bedroom house. Luckily, it is only a 15-minute walk from campus and the rent is around $700 a month per person.

They wanted to sign a lease as soon as possible to ensure fall housing and will be able to move on Aug. 1.

Rents expected to keep rising

Other students are having to make adjustments for the upcoming school year because of financial challenges. Twenty-one percent will be moving back home to save money, while 13% will take on more roommates and 10% will lower their wants and needs to save money. 

While rents are expected to keep rising over the next few months, Ratiu says the rate is likely to moderate as new single and multi-family homes are built. But for right now, there are few options for college students and solutions depend on each student’s situation. 

“If they can take a part-time job to pay for housing, or if they can move in with family to save on housing costs, it may be worth pursuing those to avoid piling on debt,” Ratiu said. 

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