Two jobs to pay for a bed: FAU students struggle to find affordable housing
Skyrocketing rental prices in the U.S. are hammering Americans across the board — and they are hitting college students hard.
Rent prices in South Florida are some of the highest in the country, with an average of $2,800 a month — a hefty price to pay if you’re living on a tight budget or living off student loans.
It means that, as the new term begins, many students are having a hard time finding affordable housing. According to the website Student Beans, nearly 30% of Florida’s students have faced housing insecurity.
At Florida Atlantic University, classes started last week. On campus, housing was already full, and some students were scrambling to find a place to live at the last minute.
Layla Khattabi, a third year civil engineering student at FAU, told WLRN that she was disappointed she couldn’t get a spot through the university's housing system this year. Priority is given to freshman, sophomores and transfer students — making it competitive.
“School started and I’m still on the waitlist. I do not live anywhere near here so I had to be able to find affordable housing which is very scarce around here,” Khattabi told WLRN.
FAU was once known as a tiny commuter school — but not anymore. Last year, the school had the biggest incoming freshman class in its history, with over 4,300 students, and this year they’re expecting about the same.
Typically, upperclassmen opt to live off campus after their freshman year. But because rents in this part of the country are so expensive, many students are opting for on-campus housing and this is putting a strain on university housing: there are just 5,100 on-campus beds.
Ken H. Johnson, a real estate economist with FAU’s College of Business, is not surprised to hear about the struggle to find affordable accommodation. Population increase, formation of new households and limited supply are driving high rents in Boca Raton and throughout South Florida, he said.
“We have a huge housing shortage,” Johnson told WLRN. And it’s not going to go down anytime soon, he said. Housing is overvalued because supply outweighs demand. “Both on rents and home prices, we’re entering a period of unaffordability,” Johnson added.
'An expensive town to live in'
Elisabeth Gaffney, FAU student and managing editor of the Florida Atlantic University Press, was fortunate enough to live on campus for the past two years. But, as the summer was coming to an end, she came to terms with the fact that it wasn’t going to happen for another year: she was number 56 on a waitlist.
“I started looking around, going on Zillow, going on apartments.com and everything I could find was $1,300 — and that was the cheapest I could get. And that’s per bed,” she told WLRN.
Gaffney had to find a roommate. She now has a 30-minute commute to campus every day. She’s renting furniture, and has to work two jobs to meet her monthly expenses of $1500. That's around $500 more a month than she paid last year at the campus dorm.
But, Alexis Prado, a sophomore, got lucky. She told WLRN that it wasn’t easy — logging onto the housing portal was stressful, she said.
“People were sitting there in my class with their laptops open, refreshing the page constantly. The portal was super slow and it kept crashing. It seemed as if the whole campus was on their laptops waiting for housing,” Prado told WLRN.
Eventually, she managed to get a room and is thrilled — living on campus is affordable. “This is an expensive town to live in, it’s not cheap to live in Boca,” Prado said.