Finding affordable housing is a challenge for many people in Durango, including Fort Lewis College students. Housing is one of our most basic needs and, in Durango, it can be a need that’s hard to meet.
Being short of money in college is a common narrative for many students. Few students are immune to the struggle of eating ramen or crashing with friends because it’s the only place you have to sleep on a given night.
According to a recent national survey by Wisconsin Hope Lab, nine percent of college and university students experienced homelessness at some point in the last year and 36 percent did not have secure housing, meaning they were unable to pay rent or utilities or needed to move frequently.
While finding affordable housing can be a challenge throughout the country, it can be especially difficult in Durango. According to the Durango Housing Plan, we have a problem with housing affordability and availability, and housing in Durango is predicted to get more expensive if no action is taken.
The housing plan also projects Durango continuing to grow, with La Plata County’s population expected to reach 85,000 by the year 2030, Given these predictions, Durango needs to develop more housing in order to meet its needs.
According to the plan, housing prices in Durango are climbing to rates that they were at prior to 2008 when we entered the recession. The plan states that in 2016, the median rent in Durango was nearly $1,200, and the median home price was $382,000. In 2008, the median home price in Durango was$358,000.
If students can’t find an affordable place to live in Durango, their next option is living in on-campus housing on the FLC campus. However, living on campus might not be the cheapest option for students.
If students opt to live in on-campus housing, the most affordable housing available to them is the traditional-style residence halls which cost $2,398 a semester. And if students choose to live in the traditional-style halls, they are required to purchase a meal plan which is minimally $2,167 a semester. Living in the least expensive on-campus apartments costs $2,772 and does not require a meal plan.
It’s difficult for students to find affordable housing regardless of whether they live on- or off- campus. According to FLC’s 2017-2018 Student Housing Guide, approximately 40 percent of FLC students currently live in on-campus housing. Given each student’s unique circumstances, he or she must individually determine their best option.
If students do make the choice to live off-campus, then they have to find a home they can afford to live in. But, even if students do find affordable housing off-campus they might not be welcome to live in it.
Often times, if you browse housing sites like Zillow or Craigslist, advertisements for housing will say “no students” and bar students from living in those homes. Students, at the mercy of landlords, can be denied housing simply because they are students. This is unfair housing discrimination.
Affordable and available housing is one of the determining factor students must weigh when choosing where to go to school. Durango’s lack of affordable living contributes to the college’s dropping enrollment.
Simply put – if people can’t afford to live in Durango, they can’t afford to go to school here. As Durango moves forward and assesses its housing problems, the voices of students need to be heard and recognized.
Becca Day is a junior Journalism and Multimedia Studies major from Brighton, Colorado. She is the Campus News Editor for The Independent, FLC’s student news organization and a Resident Assistant for FLC’s Student Housing and Conference Services. Reach Day at firstname.lastname@example.org.