Apartments to ease housing crunch

Yale officials struck a deal Thursday to purchase additional annex space for juniors, averting what would have been an unusually severe housing shortage next year.

Faced with overcrowding on Old Campus, the Yale College Dean’s Office has agreed to rent a Park Street apartment building from University Properties. The agreement makes it unlikely that any students will be forced to find their own housing next year, but the deal will displace residents currently living in the building, Associate Dean John Meeske said. A fluctuation in undergraduate rooming preferences this year took the housing office by surprise, Meeske said.

“We ended up with fewer students off campus and more students on campus, and that wasn’t expected,” Meeske said. “With that building, we’ll be able to address all the needs of all the students who want to live on campus.”

This past fall, 30 fewer students chose to live off-campus and leaves of absences declined by about 50 percent as compared to the previous year. Based on current numbers, Meeske said, Yale would have faced a housing shortage next year, especially since some students in Trumbull College now occupying Swing Space will move to Old Campus annexes after their college is renovated.

Yale College and University Properties, which rents Yale-owned apartments on the open market, have negotiated a deal to reserve all 40 apartments at 210 Park St. for undergraduate housing. The Dean’s Office will transfer its boarding revenues to University Properties to reimburse the lost rent, Meeske said, but Yale College will cover expenses associated with the tenant shuffling.

Officials on both sides of the agreement said they discussed the terms with the University’s best overall interests in mind.

“It’s a collegial relationship,” University Properties Associate Director Troy Resch said. “There’s an understanding that both Yale College and University Properties want to further the University’s mission.”

Yale College has rented individual apartments from 210 Park in the past, Meeske said, but this is the first time that it is reserving the entire building. The deal will force at least some of the building’s current tenants to find housing elsewhere, with the final figure depending on Yale’s housing needs.

Peter Harcourt, who has lived at 210 Park since 1966, said he is the building’s only remaining tenant who is not somehow affiliated with Yale. Since each lease lasts a year, Harcourt said, he has had to fight annually to keep his apartment. Harcourt said he is concerned about finding a comparable apartment nearby.

“If you’re looking for something less expensive, you have to go into bad neighborhoods with a lot of crime,” he said. “I’m the last holdout.”

Approximately 60 percent of University Properties tenants ask to re-lease their apartment each year, Resch said, though the figure for 210 Park might be lower because it is popular among undergraduates. His office will try to accommodate displaced tenants in its other properties, he said.

Meeske said the displacements are a necessary sacrifice to supply students with housing.

“We would rather not do something that they would find to be unpleasant, but on the other hand we think the top priority is to provide housing for Yale College students,” he said.

Meeske said he expects the University’s housing scheme will be less problematic in the future. A new building on Elm Street is being specially constructed to help shelter Silliman College’s approximately 400 students next year while the college is renovated. That space will also be available to the general annex population in later years, while smaller residential colleges are being renovated. But there is a chance that Yale could still face a space shortage next year, Meeske said, if the number of students living on campus continues to climb.

Still, Meeske said that while housing arrangements have been especially tight recently, fretting over residential plans is an annual ritual.

“My experience with housing, over 30 years at Yale, is that it’s unpredictable,” he said. “It seems very dire when you’re coming into the housing period, but things work out.”

The Dean’s Office has not yet set aside rooms for next fall’s transfer students, as it usually does, but Meeske said he expects to accommodate them when plans are finalized.

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