The Office of Residential Life will now approve students for off-campus housing during the fall semester, rather than the spring, in order to better correspond with when students sign rental leases.
Bonnie Solt Prunty, director of residential life and judicial affairs, said applications to live off campus will be available Oct. 29. This decision comes after a hectic off-campus approval process last school year, when more than 160 students were placed on an off-campus housing waiting list.
Because many students sign leases for off-campus housing in October and November, Prunty said, it makes sense to move up the application process.
“We had a number of students on that list who ultimately never got approved, who had signed off-campus leases and also had an on-campus housing obligation,” she said. “We’re just trying to sync things up better so that students have the information they need before they are in a position where they make a decision to sign a lease.”
The Office of Residential Life requires that all students except for seniors — students who have completed five semesters by the fall or six semesters by the spring — live on campus. Non-seniors who want to live off campus must complete an application and an online quiz, “Putting the Pieces Together: Being a Responsible Member of the Ithaca Community.”
Prunty said she sent an email Tuesday to all students currently living in on-campus housing reminding them not to sign off-campus leases before gaining approval from Residential Life.
Though last year’s off-campus housing process played a major role in the decision to move selection to the fall, Prunty said the Office of Residential Life has long considered making changes in how it projects the number of students to approve for off-campus housing.
In the past, Prunty said Residential Life looked at the number of students who were eligible to select housing in the spring semester. Now, she said, the office plans to look at overall class enrollment, as opposed to the number of students who have sophomore, junior and senior standing by the spring semester.
“This allows us to do the off-campus projections in a much more precise way and come up with a target in the fall as opposed of needing to wait until January, early February to come up with that target,” she said.
Junior Noah Delin applied for off-campus housing last school year but didn’t get approval. He had already signed an off-campus lease and was prepared to pay for both on- and off-campus housing.
“You don’t get told that you can live off campus until after all the houses are already taken or leased,” he said. “I didn’t find a subletter until a week before I got to school.”
At this time, Prunty said she does not have the projected number of non-seniors who will be approved for off-campus housing. That number will be available mid-October after Residential Life meets to evaluate enrollment numbers.
Brian Grout, owner of the Ithaca Apartment Company, said he began to hear from students who were interested in looking at his apartments in early-to-mid September, the earliest he’s ever begun to set up housing for the following academic year.
“If you have a product that somebody wants to buy or, [in] this case, somebody wants to rent, you sell or rent that product as the demand presents itself,” he said. “With the extremely high property taxes that property owners pay in Tompkins County, I cannot afford to wait until November or December or next year before I start showing my apartments and signing my leases, because it’s possible there may be no customers left.”
Kelly Geiger, manager at Ithaca Renting Company, said students had begun asking about their properties in August.
Grout said he had about 25 percent of his 72 apartments leased for next school year. By the end of the month, as of Wednesday, he expects 80 percent of his properties will be rented. Last year, he had one case where Ithaca College students — who he said rent about 40 percent of his properties — had signed his lease but were not yet approved for off-campus housing. Now, Grout said, he’s asking all rising sophomores or juniors to give him a copy of the off-campus approval statement from the college before they sign his lease.
Geiger said last year her company encountered two cases in which students at the college signed leases but didn’t receive off-campus housing approval.