Despite Houston’s low cost of living, affordable housing for students still a challenge
On-campus housing is expensive. The locations of housing options at the University are optimal — one can walk to class, so no having to spend money on gas. However, if one does choose on-campus housing, be prepared to pay large amounts of money for a room the size of a shoebox.
Off-campus housing is not much different. While the pricing of off-campus housing can be less expensive, the location of said housing options may not be convenient. Students attempt to find a place that is close enough to campus to avoid stagnantly sitting in traffic, yet not so close as to be concerned walking out their front door.
Searching for affordable housing options is difficult — mainly because Google seems to have a different idea of what the word “affordable” means.
I associate affordable with a place that I feel safe in, that I can pay for with a full-time job and that has no roaches. Google associates affordable with a two-bed, two-bathroom apartments that cost an arm, a leg and more than $1,000 a month.
Strangely enough, though students recognize that finding affordable housing in Houston is a struggle, national reports do not. In fact, affordable seems to be the key word used when describing Houston living options.
According to a study shown on Houston.org done by the Council for Community and Economic Research, Houston ranks well on the average cost of living in urban areas. The study shows that Houston has the third-lowest cost of living among the nation’s 20 most populous metropolitan areas.
In addition, according to a 2012 study by Forbes, Houston sits at No. 6 on the list of best cities for renters.
These statistics make living in Houston seem completely doable — as long as one is not a struggling college student.
While the national scale is able to put Houston on the lower end of rental rates, in comparison to previous years, Houston’s rental rate is rising.
Apartmentratings.com calculated the market trends in Houston to show that the rental rate has continued to rise, especially during recent years.
For a one-bedroom apartment, the rate has risen 2.76 percent since 2013. Apparently, the market for renting a two-bedroom apartment is even worse; since 2013, rates have risen 10.19 percent.
These conflicting statistics makes one wonder why it is so difficult for college students to pay for these affordable options that are being bragged about.
It may have something to do with The National Center for Education Statistics, which shows that in 2012, about 40 percent of full-time college students between 16 and 24 years old were employed, while about 84 percent of part-time college students were employed.
Employment is a great contributor to paying for a place to call home, but with a majority of students working minimum-wage jobs, even this low rental rate seems out of reach.
So now the typical working student is caught between a rock and a hard place. Houston seems to be a good place to find a home after students have graduated and are making more than $7.25 an hour. However, unless a college student has been fortunate enough to land a job that pays well during school, Houston is a bad place live on low wages.
I believe the lack of college-budget-friendly housing might have something to do with the fact that Houston is not a town built around its universities. While Houston is the home of quite a few universities, they are not the main focus of the community.
Houston is mostly known for its vast job opportunities — not the colleges within the city. While colleges in Houston are still relevant, Houston is not a city like Huntsville or College Station, whose main focuses are the universities within them.
Nevertheless, more affordable housing for college students in the Houston area should be made a priority.
If a cheaper housing option is not found soon, students will have to continue to live in shady areas of the city, outside the city limits or in the garage apartments that are sometimes available to rent from creepy landlords.
Houston, save students from excessive debt by making this city more of a college-friendly place.
Senior staff columnist Kelly Schafler is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]