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Student Housing Blog - Places4Students

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Breaking Down The Student Housing Stereotype

Breaking Down The Student Housing Stereotype


Popular culture and film has a funny way of influencing the public’s opinion on practically any topic, student housing included. Let’s go back as far as 1978 when the film Animal House was released. This iconic film gave viewers a taste of fraternity style living, albeit an inaccurate representation. This depiction of student living and accommodations would be reiterated time and time again in practically every college movie released since 1978. The residence in Animal House would contribute to what we see today as the student housing stereotype. This label is one in which student accommodations are often negatively perceived; over-crowded, single-family dwellings in shoddy condition and ill-maintained, which are inhabited by young troublemakers who are a constant source of neighborhood disturbances. This is the basis of the student housing stereotype; an outdated misrepresentation of student living that has been reinforced over time.


The student housing industry has been fighting an uphill battle, as it modernizes and tries to distance itself from this inaccurate label. The problem is that the general public often sees student housing as a bad thing, which is why student housing developments are often met with protest from local neighborhood groups. Student housing is sometimes seen as being intrusive and is unwelcomed in family neighborhoods, as residents fear it will change their area for the worse.


What these local groups fail to realize is that new and modern student housing isn’t anything like the preconceived ideas they may have in their mind. In fact, most purpose-built student housing is built to actually solve some of the common problems associated with student housing. These high-rise and high-density purpose-built accommodations have helped many cities overcome their student housing troubles. While no two college towns are alike, many face very similar problems in regards to student housing.


Three of the primary complaints about student housing often include:

  1. Low-density family neighborhoods become over-run with student housing and turn to “student ghettos”.
  2. The properties are often not well maintained, poorly managed and owned by absent landlords or slumlords.
  3. There is an increase in disturbances, noise complaints and crime.


Greg Romundt from Centurion Apartments discusses this odd phenomenon stating, “There is a perception that putting lots of students in concentrated towers will bring a number of negative elements into these communities. A large student building benefits everyone. Students get top quality accommodation with services, including security. Neighborhoods see better management of these communities, and cities ensure the buildings are to code and the students are safe.” The point Romundt was making is that the opposition to purpose-built student housing doesn’t see that this style of accommodations is actually the answer to their most common problems:


  1. High-density student apartments will take more students out of low-density family neighborhoods and will help effectively limit the expansion of student ghettos. Most of these buildings are centralized directly around the campus in a very specific geographic area.
  2. These state-of-the-art student accommodations are manned by professional property management staff and are by no means unsafe or poorly maintained. In many cases, they are often much easier to regulate and inspect, in comparison to single-family rental homes.
  3. Disturbances and noise complaints may still happen, but by grouping students together into purpose-built student housing, it isolates these incidents and takes many of them outside of family neighborhoods.


There is evidence that supports these three points and we can use Waterloo, Ontario as an example. Waterloo was struggling to accommodate the increasing amount of students in the city, and was having difficulties dealing with growing student ghettos and neglected student housing. Waterloo was able to develop a student housing plan that set out to tackle many of the city’s problems with student accommodations. The results? Student ghettos improved dramatically and became more centralized. The quality of housing improved significantly, and many students moved out of low-density residential neighborhoods. Waterloo became the capital of student housing in Canada and early studies indicated that families started to move back into neighborhoods that were once dominated largely by students.


The key takeaway here is that purpose-built student housing is the solution to many city and neighborhood concerns, and is also leading the frontier at breaking down the inaccurate student housing stereotype. As more and more purpose-built student housing pops up, we’re continuing to see somewhat of a student migration away from single-family homes and family neighborhoods.  To back-up this point, a survey done in 2013 by J Turner Research asked over 7,000 students their preferred style of accommodation, with 38% reporting mid-rise apartments and only 13% reporting a single-family home. This demonstrates that given the availability, many students prefer apartments to single family homes.


While the student housing industry is moving in the right direction at dissolving this outdated student housing stereotype, there is still a long way to go. It will likely take several more years to sway public opinion towards it being casted in a more favorable light. That being said, if there are more cases like Waterloo’s, people may slowly but surely see the positive changes organized student housing can have on communities.

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