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Officials to clear homeless encampment near campus in May
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • March 4, 2024

Students move off campus for improved facilities as average Foggy Bottom rents increase

Chuckie Copeland | Staff Photographer
The Residences on The Avenue on the corner of I and 22nd Street.

Even as rent prices in the District increase, students said they moved off campus to save money and access better amenities, dining and maintenance than GW residence halls offer.

More than 20 students living across 10 apartment buildings off campus said they moved off campus to save money, sometimes paying more in rent to avoid the now-mandatory meal plan and secure individual, private spaces. But some students have encountered facilities issues — like pests and trash-disposal problems — off campus.

One academic year of GW housing costs anywhere between $10,700 and $16,560, or $1,383 to $1,656 per month from August through May. But students living in residence halls must purchase a meal plan, adding between $2,060 and $2,800 per semester to the bill.

The University dropped the requirement for third-year students to live on campus in January, saying the change reflected student concerns. A University spokesperson said half of third-year students lived on campus last academic year, compared to 43 percent of third-year students living on campus this year.

Last year, Seth Weinshel, the associate vice president of business services, said about 2,500 students choose to live off campus each year, with about 25 to 35 percent of third-year students requesting an exemption.

An average studio apartment in Foggy Bottom costs $1,895 as of November 2023, according to apartment aggregator RentHop. The average has jumped 5.28 percent from last year, when the price stood at $1,800.

Some students living off campus said they choose to live with roommates, splitting the cost of rent to find options cheaper than on-campus housing. Since last year, the price of two-bedroom apartments in the Foggy Bottom area has increased from an average of $4,343 to $5,000 by about 15 percent, with rent averaging about $2,500 per month per person.

D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb filed a lawsuit Wednesday against 14 of the District’s largest landlords for alleged collusion. The suit, which claims landlords used a property management software to inflate rent prices, names Bozzuto Management Company, which oversees The Avenue and The Wray; AvalonBay Communities, Inc., which oversees The Statesman; and Equity Residential, which has stake in 2400 M Apartments.

John Morse, the associate manager of the Claridge House Cooperative — an apartment building on 25th and K streets — said he noticed an uptick in rent prices over the “busy” summer months, which he attributed to factors like unit availability, professionals seeking housing close to their workplace and individuals’ desire to move back into the District.

Morse, who has worked in the building for a decade, said rent prices do not increase based on student demand but instead on other factors like inflation.

“The number of those searching for apartments seemed higher before the pandemic,” Morse said. “The numbers returned to pre-pandemic levels, if not better, during our busy months this year.”

GW Campus Living and Residential Education provides a “greater assurance of housing cost, prioritizing using process to help manage cost of living for students from low-income families and backgrounds,” per their website.

Students said they moved off campus because it is cheaper than living on campus, and they feel having their own space and additional amenities makes additional costs worth it.

Teya Franks, a senior majoring in sociology living in Claridge House Cooperative, said she moved from Shenkman Hall after the end of her sophomore year because her current apartment was more affordable than living on campus. She said she and her roommate share a two-bedroom apartment, splitting the $3,100 rent.

Franks’ rent at Claridge House is $1,540 cheaper than the cost of living in Shenkman Hall with the most expensive dining plan. Other two-bedroom apartments on the market at Claridge House range between $2,600 and $3,300 per month.

“GW housing prices are absolutely ridiculous in a place where housing prices are already ridiculous,” Franks said. “The off-campus prices should not be the cheapest option for GW students.”

The median cost of rent for two-bedroom apartments in the District is $1,546, more than 30 percent higher than the national median rent cost for the same unit type.

Franks said she has not had major facilities issues while living in the Claridge House and that the building manager is communicative of any outages. She said when she lived on campus sophomore year in Shenkman Hall, she returned from winter break to her dorm to discover facilities staff had left the shower on when doing routine maintenance, leaving condensation everywhere. She said the incident also pushed her to look for off-campus options.

“Like the ceiling was dripping and all of like, bedding was wet, our walls were wet, our hangings were wet,” Franks said.

Jenny Van Zandt, a junior majoring in chemistry, lives in the Varsity on K Apartments on 24th Street. She said she moved off campus this August so she could have her own space in her apartment.

“Personally, I think I’m a lot happier having my own space, and I don’t think I would have been doing as well if I was still on campus,” Van Zandt said.

She said she has unresolved issues with rodents at Varsity, with a rat appearing once over fall break and smaller mice consistently in her apartment over the past two weeks. She said this issue may send her back to on-campus housing for next year if facilities workers in the building don’t resolve the issue soon.

“If I have to deal with mice for the whole year, then I’m probably going back on campus,” Van Zandt said.

Some students who have dietary restrictions said they feel the need to move off campus to opt out of the dining plan.

Bella Littleton, a sophomore double majoring in art history and music, said she moved off campus to avoid the now-mandatory meal plan. Littleton said she has lupus, which requires her to be on a strict gluten-free diet with food prepared in gluten-free spaces.

She said the gluten-free stations at dining halls aren’t safe because their allergy pamphlet does not specify they have a gluten-free kitchen. She said she moved to the Wray in her sophomore year because dining mandated a dining plan she couldn’t use.

“I would also not be able to secure a certified gluten-free kitchen,” Littleton said. “Even on campus in an apartment style. They do not have any sort of allergen living community which is not great.”

Erika Filter contributed reporting. 

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