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Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Quest for Cheap Rent Leaves Students Searching

Hal Brown needs somebody to help pay off his rent.

As a graduate student studying school counseling at UB, Brown is actively looking for a roommate to live with in his Richmond Avenue house in Buffalo.

"If I don't find a roommate, I would pay everything - $300 in all. I wouldn't die or anything, but it certainly would be a pain ... I'm all on loans, so I need a hundred dollars extra if I can get it."

He isn't alone in his search. Many other students that live off-campus are in need of a way to help ease their monthly rent. To further their cause, they pepper the bulletin boards of UB with "roommate wanted" flyers.

Coming across one of these flyers, complete with the customary, tear-off phone number of the occupant, is an ordinary occurrence for anyone who bothers to glance at the boards.

But they do reflect the high popularity of off-campus housing. Take Matthew Ducharme and Ilya Polyakov. These fifth-year seniors took the same route as Brown and advertised their Amherst duplex house on the campus bulletin boards.

"I get like 10-20 calls on my answering machine," Ducharme explains.

Without a third roommate, Ducharme and Polyakov would each have to pay $350 a month for their duplex on Glenhaven Road, right off of Sweet Home.

"I just need someone to spend the rent. The $350 does not include the utilities," Ducharme said.

For most renters who advertise, there is no problem receiving responses from potential roommates. The situation gets complicated when they must select the most ideal candidate.

"I've always found a roommate," says Brown. "The important balance is someone who can be communal, sharing, and totally responsible, like knowing to pay the bills."

Whatever the scenario, Ducharme or Brown probably wouldn't want to end up in the circumstance that Joshua Bae did. A former UB student in the School of Engineering who recently transferred to Buffalo State, Bae detailed his antagonistic relationship with his ex-roommate on Highgate Avenue in Buffalo.

"I had one guy from Albania who was getting a $1,500 scholarship from the U.S. government. He'd always mooch off the food. He was a bigger guy, he thought he could bully us around, and he wasn't passing me my phone messages. I gave him an ultimatum: 'If you don't start giving me my messages, I'm going to put the phone jack in my room, and cut it off everywhere else.' ... We kicked him out."

But if off-campus roommates get fleeced this way, the choice of location prevents, in their opinion, another form of gouging.

As Bae puts it, "The campus apartments? Are you kidding me? You pay too much money, they're rip-offs. Here, I'm living for $175 a month. If I live on campus,

For UB students on a tighter budget, the on-campus apartments are a considerable expense. The cheapest deal offered by the apartments on North Campus is $415 a month per person for a four-bedroom apartment in Hadley Village. Single room rates in the on-campus apartments are much more expensive. For instance, one-bedroom apartments in Flint and South Lake Village are $555 per month.

As a comparison, Ducharme and Polyakov's duplex in Amherst costs $350 a month. But unlike Bae's Highgate house in University Heights, their Amherst home is just ten minutes away from the North Campus. Not to mention that the duplex is a 2-story house, spacious enough for a family.

With such affordable housing readily available, there is a high demand for tenants throughout western New York. Recently, Buffalo has seen a rise in the number of renters.

According to Peter Lane of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, "The occupancy rate has gone up over the years. We have 5,035 apartments in Buffalo - 3,726 are occupied. Of the balance of units, there are 824 unavailable for rental, as part of a renovation project."

State Assemblyman Sam Hoyt of Buffalo offered his views on student demand for housing in Buffalo, when asked about the lack of university-owned apartments on South Campus.

"The University is investing considerable money in the suburbs, and investing virtually nothing in the city. I talk to students regularly. And the feedback that I get is that people want to live in Buffalo. They do because there's shops, restaurants, bars, and it's close to Chippewa. Virtually every other major urban-based university has recognized the importance of strengthening surrounding neighborhoods."

Landlords like Pat Atkinson, a representative for the Kensington Village Apartments, confirm the high student demand for housing in Buffalo. With college students arriving for the fall semester, Atkinson has her work cut out for her.

"We have probably close to 300 college students. There are 928 apartments. I'm insane right now. This is a very busy time."

At the Kensington Village, a 3-bedroom apartment costs $450 a month, which gives students a deal at $150 a piece.

The Amherst alternative for off-campus housing also has its advantages. For instance, duplexes on the west side of Amherst provide a home-like setting in a safe community.

"I chose to live here instead of University Heights because there are no scumbag landlords, and it's nicer over here. It's pretty close to UB," Polyakov observes.

Remarking on his place on Glenhaven Road, Polyakov finds it only partly fits the characterization of Amherst as a quaint, suburban community.

"It's pretty ghetto, but it's located in Amherst. So it's like the worst of Amherst, but Amherst is still the safest town."

But for others, many agree with Hoyt's sentiment that Buffalo has more attractions to offer.

Brown definitely prefers his place in Buffalo.

"I'm in the Elmwood District, which is perfect for me because I want to live in a community that I can interact with, but then have easy access, because I'm on North Campus. It only takes me two seconds to get on the 190."

Bae has his own reasons for choosing Buffalo.

"University Heights has more students, more people my age, and more ethnic diversity. Amherst might not be the place for that."



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