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Homeless is the New Starving

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Unable to Find Rental Vacancies, SOU Students are Exiting Ashland En Masse

The article “Seller’s Market,” in the 7/23 issue of The Rogue Valley Messenger looked into the staggering shortage of rental homes in Southern Oregon, where the vacancy rate is currently around 1.5 percent, the tightest market in decades.

sounovacancyWhile the problem stretches across demographics, one group greatly affected is Southern Oregon University students. Priority for dorm housing goes to incoming freshman but it’s not uncommon for transfers and second year students to take up some of the remaining spots, and the difficulty of trying to find rental housing in Ashland has students new to the area moving to towns like Phoenix, Talent and even Medford.

A survey performed by the campus bike program during the 2014/15 academic year found that a whopping estimated 50 percent of SOU’s nearly 7,000 students now don’t live in Ashland.

That means more impact on roads, parking resources, increased spending on gas, more carbon emissions, as well as the added stress for students of having to commute to class.

SOU’s Director of Housing Tim Robitz said that even with the massive expansion, there are only about 1,150 available spots in the dorm facilities which are filled to capacity throughout most of the year. There are also 165 family housing units located close to campus that range from studio apartments to three bedroom townhomes. To move into these spaces, at least one member of the unit must be a SOU student with the occasional faculty member taking up residence as well.

“The family housing units are always completely filled with a waiting list,” Robitz says. Priority to move in is measured by seniority of enrollment.”

Mizreal Mendez is a transfer student from Southern California who made the decision to attend SOU late last summer.  While being granted temporary residence in the dorms for athletic training, Mendez had trouble trying to find a permanent place in Ashland before deciding on an apartment in Talent.

“It was just easier and a bit cheaper to find a place outside of Ashland,” he says. “We looked online and through listings in the paper before finding a place.”

Whether more campus housing or development of new apartments is the key, it’s surely to be another mad dash for living in the fall when more young, hopeful renters come to the valley.

The scramble for housing is even sprawling all the way to Medford and while one would think that the bigger population would mean more spaces to live, this is unfortunately not the case.  “All housing is tight right now,” says Danette Jones, assistant director at Charleston Point Apartments in Medford. “It’s honestly unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

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