Mansi ChauhanMercury Staff
In early April, housing officials notified incoming on-campus residents of increases in rent pricing for 2019-2020, citing aging facilities and equipment as reasons for the change. Soon after being notified, residents took to Reddit to voice concerns about the timing of the notification as well as the deteriorating infrastructure in the units.
When the newest dorm building, Residence Hall West, opened in 2014, the rent for University Commons dorms consisted of nine installments of $677, totaling up to $6,093 for the year. In 2018, students needed to pay $3,668 per semester instead of monthly, for a yearly total of $7,336. For the 2019-2020 school year, University Commons will cost $7,556 yearly. The rent changes for all University Housing go through Matt Grief, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs. Across University Commons and University Village, the rates will increase by about 2.8-3% for the upcoming year.
Individuals signing leases for University Housing 2019-2020 were not notified of a rent increase until after the leases were signed. University Housing extended the cancellation deadline to June 1st with no penalty.
“There is a multi-step process in deciding how rent will change next year. We meet with the President multiple times, and then the numbers are sent down to the Chancellor’s Office in Austin,” Grief said. “Sometimes we don’t have control over the timing for that and this year the numbers came back after the leasing deadlines.”
The funding from the rent increases go back to the students, Director of Housing Kevin Kwiatowski said.
“The rent goes up according to the needs of the building. We replace equipment, utilities have gone up, we’ve added some amenities like ice machines and water bottle fillers,” Kwiatkowski said. “We’ve also changed internet and TV suppliers to more reliable companies.”
Residential internet is provided by Apogee, and their prices increase by 3% annually, Grief said. Utility prices change as well; water charges were the highest they have ever been during the 2018-2019 academic year.
“We replace carpets annually, and carpet replacement charges are going every year,” Grief said. “The money goes towards cabinet and countertop refinishing, outdoor amenities and even the clubhouses as well.”
In a post on the UTD subreddit, a resident of Residence Hall West said their shower was incredibly volatile, and that sometimes the toilets flushed with tremendous force, causing water to go everywhere and made maintaining a clean bathroom difficult. The user also said that there had been no hot water or water pressure recently, which was a problem for the entire building.
The weekend of March 30, the entire 600-suite residence hall did not have hot water or water pressure. This issue was resolved in a day, Kwiatkowski said.
“One of the pumps failed due to old age or use.” Kwiatkowski said. “We discovered it in the afternoon and found a supplier that could send us a new one overnight.”
Earlier this year, a suite’s toilet exploded, leaking out into the hallway and the suite across the hall. Neuroscience sophomore Priya Johnson said that the front desk at Residence Hall West already knew but nobody came up to see the extent of the situation.
“When the supervisors finally did come up, they spent an hour and a half cleaning it up and trying to stop the water from continuing,” Johnson said. “But our whole suite had water damage and we got moved for the night, but the people across from us had to stay even though water had gotten into their living room and the hallway smelled.”
Johnson said the students were displaced for about a week.
Biology freshman Akansha Agarwal said that the locks on bedroom and bathroom door of her suite in Residence Hall South did not work despite work orders being put in. Different infrastructure issues require different approaches as far as maintenance is concerned, Kwiatkowski said.
“There’s lots of issues that can require either preventive or reactionary maintenance, depending on the problem,” Kwiatkowski said.
More UTD students are moving to nearby apartments in the area each academic year instead of University Village, Grief noted.
“We have to make sure that we provide affordable housing for students, especially with competitors like Northside. It’s one of the reasons we either lower rates or don’t increase them,” Grief said. “The one and two bedrooms are more in line with our competitors so we raised those significantly but it’s still reasonable.”
Rent prices for four-bedroom and four-bath apartments in University Village and Canyon Creek did not increase, nor did two-bedroom and two-bath shared University Village apartments.
“We want to utilize these funds to keep these apartments up to a standard,” Grief said. “We know they’re not completely new but students should feel like they have a nice, new apartment.”