Students raise concerns about off-campus living cost amid Yale College housing shortage
Even as a new streamlined housing process takes effect this spring, students remain concerned about being pushed off campus and the costs it may bring, leading one Yale College Council Senator to propose a policy which would prioritize FGLI students in the housing process.
Robbie Short, Senior Photographer
Propelled by student concern, Ben Crnovrsanin ’25, a first-generation, low-income student and Yale College Council senator, authored a policy proposal to prioritize FGLI students when deciding if students will get on-campus housing. The proposal raises concerns about the possible costs associated with living off campus and the timing of when students find out housing decisions.
These concerns come at a time when the housing process – long a source of discontent for students — is undergoing a streamlining process, moving away from residential colleges and under the authority of a central housing office which will run the entire process online. The current timeline, which was recently sent in an email to students, marks the process for forming “rooming groups” over the period from March 8 to March 28 for sophomores and seniors, and March 8 to April 13 for juniors and post-seniors.
“This past year has been unique as the entire housing system undergoes changes, but the situation sheds light on a bigger problem: the recurring sense of insecurity students feel concerning one of the most fundamental aspects of their Yale experience,” Crnovrsanin told the News.
Crnovrsanin wrote that his main concern is the uncertainty of being able to secure housing for juniors or seniors – who are not guaranteed on-campus housing. Additionally, he noted that it is unclear whether students who do not secure on-campus housing will be annexed to other places on campus or will be expected to find their own off-campus housing.
He added that this year is set to see additional housing shortages given the abnormally large size of the class of 2025, which caused housing shortages for the class of 2024 this year.
“There needs to be increased transparency and accountability across the board,” Crnovrsanin wrote to the News. “The issue today itself is not new— it is part of a recurring problem whose consequences administrators knew would be exacerbated by the large class size of 2025.”
But Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis explained that, to date, no students have ever been expelled from campus completely. Instead, they face the possibility of being annexed to other campus locations. However, Lewis noted that the availability of annex housing relies on a certain percentage of students moving off campus — a percentage that he acknowledged is difficult to predict year to year, especially given the unusually large class size of rising juniors.
Costs of housing in New Haven
While the cost may vary for off-campus housing, Crnovrsanin explained that, if kicked off campus, FGLI students may need to compromise certain aspects of housing such as size and proximity to campus in order to afford the rising costs of rent in New Haven.
This uncertainty, he explained, is only exacerbated by how late the timeline is, which makes it more and more difficult to secure off-campus housing.
Neil Currie, leasing office manager at Chelsea Company, told the News there is not a lack of affordable housing in New Haven — despite rent rising across the city and 1.4 percent rental vacancy rate — stating instead that there is a rise in the competition among Yale students looking for housing close to campus.
“I don’t think that students who wait later are going to be forced to spend more,” Currie said. “The reality is that students who wait later just have to walk farther. They will still find affordable options, just not as close.”
Social and financial costs of living off-campus
Yale’s financial aid policy calculates the estimated cost of attendance as the same for students living on or off campus which is $19,180 for housing and meals in the 2023-2024 school year. If a student on financial aid has scholarship support over $65,151, they can request any expenses over $65,151 as a refund for off-campus expenses.
Matthew Park ’24 entered the lottery for the housing draw for this school year last spring. He lost the lottery and was given an option to be annexed into a suite of people in the class of 2025 where he would live in a double with a stranger.
Given these circumstances, Park decided to move off campus, but he said the costs of living off campus have been significantly higher than living on campus. Additionally, he wrote that options for housing are often hard to navigate, especially as he had not rented before and did not come from a similar environment to New Haven.
Park explained that while FGLI students who receive the full refund for off-campus housing helps to a “limited extent,” students such as him who do not receive the refund face significant financial restrictions having to pay for the costs of off-campus living up-front.
“I think some sort of income-based proposal to guarantee housing is a thought in the right direction, but the technicalities are so complicated that a simplistic prioritization of those falling under the ‘FGLI’ bucket in housing might not address the full scope of the situation,” Park told the News.
Joanna Ruiz ’25, an FGLI student, told the News though that regardless of whether the costs of off-campus housing are rising or not, living off-campus includes an added cost for FGLI students in terms of being disconnected from many of the FGLI mentorship resources, especially if they are forced to live further away from campus.
“Forming community and being close to other FGLI students is very important to me because I feel like it is necessary for me and my well being at this school,” Ruiz told the News.
Ruiz also said off-campus housing includes a variety of costs that can be difficult for FGLI students to afford, even if they receive the full refund for off-campus expenses, such as buying furniture, groceries and securing storage over the summer.
Crnovrsanin has since reviewed the proposal with Lewis and said that Lewis was open to having a security measure in place if the demand for on-campus housing exceeded supply.
Lewis told the News that the concerns of FGLI students would be accommodated if the demand for on-campus housing exceeds the supply, but he does not expect that students will get kicked off campus in the first place.
“If there was an emergency situation at the end, we would certainly look into it for an FGLI student,” Lewis told the News. “I would encourage students to only sign up [for on-campus housing] if they really want to live on campus, but we will do our best to make sure that anyone who signs up gets housing.”
Lewis added that the new streamlined housing system will provide information on where there are open rooms for students to be annexed which will help students to understand their options earlier.
Students must declare their intent to live on or off campus for the 2023-2024 school year by Feb. 27.