FSU, FAMU students have plenty of choices for housing
On or off campus?
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
While students at FSU and FAMU could find basic housing on campus, they’ll have to look off campus to satisfy their needs for luxury.
That isn’t hard these days in Tallahassee. Students are finding all that they need for upscale living at almost any of the increasing number of off-campus complexes. During the next few weeks leading up to the start of fall classes, campus housing directors and landlords of off-campus housing could see a bit of a bustle as students intensify their search for places to live.
However, FSU and FAMU are moving at a frantic pace to make sure on-campus students have an easy time getting living accommodations. Those who want to live off campus will have plenty of choices – from luxurious to the traditional.
The bigger crunch could be felt on both campuses, depending on the demand for available living spaces.
FAMU is preparing to accommodate almost 2,000 first-year students, about 800 more than expected. That has forced the reopening of Palmetto North, which has been closed since 2014, said housing director Jennifer Wilder.
The re-opening of Palmetto will provide 124 beds for a total of 2,400 spaces on campus.
Wilder said since she arrived at FAMU five months ago, students have been calling for more housing on campus. To do that might mean reopening three more dormitories — McGuinn, Diamond and Wheatley – that have been closed for more than a year. Consideration also is being given to constructing new dormitories in the future, she said.
“We are trying to pursue all of our options and see what makes the best sense for the university,” she said. “Nothing is set in stone at this time.”
At FSU, four residence halls were demolished in the last five years. Shannon Staten, executive director of housing, said replacement residence halls will be available this fall. Students will have 6,713 beds, she said.
But there will always be the need to satisfy students who want to live on campus, although they often settle for the pricier options off campus. What students won’t get on campus are niceties such as movie and game rooms, pools, hot tubs and marble counter tops.
“We don’t try to compete with that (private) group because they do it better,” Staten said.
Developers have been building housing specifically for college students at a frantic rate in Tallahassee. There doesn’t seem to be any slowing down with new projects that are on the drawing board.
The boom is being spurred by students’ need for more lavish housing that’s convenient, said Ben Harris, former minority small business administrator for the city of Tallahassee.
Harris suggested that students don’t mind living off campus as long as housing isn’t too far from the amenities they need daily.
“Students want to have housing that is self-contained with grocery stores and things of that nature because some of them don’t have cars,” he said.
Slowly the days of students living far from campus is becoming a thing of the past. Most of the developments that have been taking place in the last five years surround both FAMU and FSU campuses. These days they are opting for the upscale living like College Town, which is nestled on Gaines Street between both campuses.
About a half mile south of FAMU’s campus, there is a sprinkling of condo-style living for students. They run from Orange Avenue to Paul Russell Road, taking up tracts off Munroe and Adams streets.
Studies have found that investment in the student housing has more than doubled in the last 10 years. Billions of dollars have been injected into student housing since 2013.
“There is a market there that these private companies see as a need,” said Staten. “It’s not a phenomenon for us. It’s a pretty standard thing across the country.”
There is no cheap living, either. According to Rent Jungle, which tracks housing trends, the average cost of renting in Tallahassee is $904 as of last month. And, as those state-of-the-art student housing go up, so does the price for renting them. As of the last six months, rent increased $185 or 25 percent.
Living at FAMU or FSU is right along with those figures. The highest rate at FSU is $3,900 per semester for a two-bedroom unit with one bath. However, a suit with private bath is slightly less at $3,740.
The lowest price for a one-bedroom with one bath shared by two students is $2,635.
FAMU students pay $3,596 for a semester to stay in the school’s newest dorm, FAMU Village. That comes with several of the same features as the upscale off-campus apartments. Prices at other dorms vary with the average high of $3,872 per semester and lowest at $2,902.
Both schools are constantly trying to find ways to accommodate the bulging student population of about 70,000 in Tallahassee. While a small percentage of them are from Tallahassee and don’t significantly affect the numbers of students looking for housing, it’s the out-of-town students that are clamming to apartments and villas close to campus.
Freshmen students, specifically those attending FAMU don’t have many options to live off campus. Only first-year students who attended a local school about 25 miles from campus will have the option of off-campus living. A married couple and military veterans also have that option.
Meanwhile, there is a good chance that some students won’t have any choice but to live off campus.
“Most of the times it’s supply and demand,” Harris said. “If student housing isn’t available (on campus) you have to put them somewhere.”