New housing provides students options

Lizzy Balboa

With a new housing complex rising at Campus West and another outside contract in the works near Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus, local students are given more opportunities to choose affordable, convenient housing.

Nicole Payne, office manager at Campus West, said the new complex will open in August and offers 12 units with two beds each for a total occupancy of 24 residents.

Payne said the building will meet immediate needs, as Campus West will be at 99 percent occupancy for the fall with the new complex in use.

Even more student housing may be offered in the future, as Allendale Township Supervisor Jerry Alkema confirmed that the May election allocated 65 acres of land at the end of West Campus Drive for high-density housing.

Alkema said the planning commission has not yet received building applications for this long-disputed piece of land, which passed for housing use in the ballots with a 70 percent approval rate.

He also said 48 West had applied to add new units, but he could not confirm when that project will come to fruition.

In spite of the off-campus projects geared to entice student residents, GVSU Housing Director Andy Beachnau said the university will not need or plan to increase its competition.

“I think Grand Rapids is doing the right thing,” Beachnau said about providing students affordable living options. He said GVSU does not view the new complexes as competitors taking away residents, and thus won’t take swift action to retain high occupancy levels.

In fact, Beachnau said the competition is so low that GVSU Housing often refers students to off-campus apartments.

“It’s not very competitive because there are so many options, so what we try to do is complement the Pew Campus,” he said. “Ours is more of a proximity model (than competitive).”

He added that because GVSU’s housing has been around so long, it won’t see rapid change in occupancy. “It’ll be driven by two questions: where are my classes and who’s going to live with me?” he said.

At this point, a consistent number of students have answered with “on-campus housing,” which has been in increasingly high demand.

Supply and demand

The 2012-2013 school year saw such a large swell in the freshmen population that on-campus housing was filled to capacity. Many freshmen found themselves mixed in with the upperclassmen at the Ravines or Laker Village—a trend that is likely to reoccur.

“We are running a little ahead of last year,” Beachnau said, although adding that it’s still a bit premature to make accurate projections. “I think we’ll have a very large class equal to or maybe larger than last year.”

While this sign of growth may be a pleasant indication for the ambitious university, it may also make for an unexpected college experience for some incoming students forced out of the freshmen dorms.

Beachnau said the university might “allow first-year students to live in a variety of upperclassmen options” to alleviate the tight squeezes. The freshmen overflow would be placed with first-year roommates in Laker Village or the Ravines.

The Housing staff will also address housing needs by asking people to take on more roommates than they’d originally anticipated.

“Typically we have a couple different things going on, but we’ll probably increase the density of assignments,” Beachnau said. “We would have fewer singles and more roommates assigned to accommodate the demand.”

Beachnau said the dorm lounges have been used as temporary room assignments in the past while the university worked to settle arrangements. He anticipates using them again this year.

He added that one plan the university is not considering is limiting the number of upperclassmen allowed to stay on campus. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet. We basically say if you apply by May 1, we’ll supply you a bed on campus,” he said, adding that the university has never had a residency requirement for freshmen or upperclassmen.

In spite of the projected increase in freshmen, the Housing director does not expect living arrangements to be any tighter than last year.

“We’re running a little behind on returning students, so I’m guessing we’ll be about where we were that year,” Beachnau said.

Longterm plans to prevent housing inconveniences are in the works, though.

“What we’re looking at is kind of three categories: should we build new housing, should we rebuild our current housing and maintain it, or should we retire and remove some current housing?” Beachnau said, adding that the complexes in question are the Ravines and some Grand Valley apartments. The replacement model would require upgrading existing housing to remain at the current occupancy rate.

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