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Students weigh prices and hassle when deciding to move off-campus

The number of U of C undergraduates who moved out of the dorms over the past few years has remained constant, reflecting the minor role the economy plays in the decision to rent.

As the collapse of the national housing market continues to affect how and where Americans live, the makeup of the Hyde Park real estate market remains relatively unchanged.

Hyde Park saw an increase in housing prices prior to the economic crisis, but not one as significant as other Chicago residential neighborhoods. Because Hyde Park was not as affected by the housing bubble, the economic downturn and plummeting home prices nationwide have had little effect on local real estate prices, according to Peter Cassel, a spokesman for MAC Property Management, one of the leading providers of residential apartments in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Cassel said that since demand didn’t drastically increase in the past few years, Hyde Park didn’t fall victim to the same burst bubble as the rest of the market.

Cassel said there have not been significant shifts in the prices or makeup of the rental market. “So far, the activity is comparable to that of last years,” he said.

With on-campus housing prices ranging from $667 to $889 per month, off-campus housing can be an appealing option, with rates dipping below $500 per month. Combined with the elimination of the moderate meal plan for current first-years, which was about $2,000 cheaper than next year’s required plan, the decision to live off campus can be primarily a financial one for many students.

“The price was nice, and I just didn’t really want to live in housing anymore,” said second-year Will Fallon. “I’d be going from living in a giant apartment in the Shoreland to a double in the new [dorm], for the same price. It didn’t really make sense.”

Fallon said even though he will be away from Chicago for the summer and autumn quarters and has not yet found a subletter, he still anticipates saving hundreds of dollars by moving off campus.

But many students are still prioritizing other concerns, such as the size of rooms and location.

First-year student Ian Muir said his parents are most concerned about whether there is significant value in staying on campus. “Considering how I am still financially dependent upon my parents, the decision also rests with them. The first factor that they consider is not how much more expensive it will be to remain in on-campus housing, but rather whether staying in the dorms will contribute more to my overall college experience.”

Other students worry that searching for an apartment might turn into a protracted hunt for the right roommates, location, and price. “Even if on-campus housing is more expensive, it’s worth it for me rather than spending the time and the effort to look for an affordable and ideal apartment,” first-year Jacob Parzen said.

According to MAC figures, the number of U of C undergraduates who moved out of the dorms over the past few years has remained constant, reflecting the minor role the economy plays in the decision to rent.

“There will always be students drawn to university housing, and others that want to live off campus. So it is impossible to predict any long-term impact on the market,” Cassel said.

Second-year Junhee Doh has factored in the financial gains in her plan to move from an apartment in Regents Park to a town house closer to campus, but she says that finances were not her primary concern. “My new place is half the distance away, which will make it more convenient. And yes, to be able to save money right now is important, but it is not the priority.”