A place to call home: Students living in houses, not apartmentsBy Katie Shepherd | 09/18/2014 12:37am
This off-campus house, located behind Gallettes and next to the Bryant-Denny Stadium, is owned by several senior girls. CW | Hanna Curlette
Instead of having to pay for parking, Parker makes money by allowing people to park at his house, which is located behind Tutwiler Hall. While most students are packed into student apartment complexes or cramped dorm rooms, Parker has enough room in the front yard of his house to make hundreds of dollars on gameday parking.
“We make almost enough money from one game to pay our rent for the month,” Parker, a senior majoring in political science, said. “It’s awesome.”
It is fairly common for upperclassmen students to move into off-campus housing after their freshman year. A large number of these students choose to live in one of the various student apartment complexes that are located near campus. But for those students who instead choose to live in an independent house, life is a little different. Parker and his roommates said living in a house gives them independence, but not to the extent that they feel isolated from on-campus activities.
“We are far enough away that we are not in the middle of everything, but close enough that we don’t miss out on anything on campus,” said Nick Van Otterloo, a senior majoring in biology who also lives in the house with Parker. “Though we aren’t technically on campus, we don’t feel disconnected at all.”
“We don’t ever have to worry about getting to campus,” Parker said.
Van Otterloo and Parker’s third roommate, James Lewis, a senior majoring in operations management, added that though they are close to campus, living in their own house allows them to maintain individuality.
“I’m happier living off campus because there’s more freedom,” Lewis said.
Students who live in houses can also find that they are spending less money per month on living expenses, such as rent and utilities, as compared to on-campus housing or student living complexes.
Depending on the size and condition of the house and its distance from campus, rent for a three-bedroom house can be as low as $350 per person per month. This is how much Lesley Smits, a senior majoring in telecommunication and film, pays for rent each month for her house, which is located off Veteran’s Memorial Parkway. Smits also said that her utilities would normally never exceed $200 per person each month.
This is compared to off-campus student apartment complexes, such as the Woodlands, for which a student can expect to pay about $605 per month for rent on a three-bedroom flat, according to their website.
This can also be compared to on-campus residence halls. According to the UA Housing website, the rate for a room in a four-bedroom unit in Riverside, Lakeside, Bryant, Ridgecrest or Presidential Village is $4,400 per semester, which comes to about $880 per month.
Anne Catherine Luckett, a senior majoring in public relations, said living in a house close to campus significantly reduces the amount that she spends on gas.
“I never fill up my car pretty much, maybe once or twice a month,” she said.
Not only does Luckett save money on gas by living close to campus, she said the location of her house also saves her and her roommates from having to pay for parking.
“None of us have a parking pass,” she said. “We just walk.”
However, for students who live in houses, everything is not always so easy. Unlike students who live on campus or in off-campus student housing communities, students who live in houses have to deal with issues like lawn care and general maintenance on the house.
“We’ve had some maintenance problems – it’s an old house. But with the money we are saving on rent, it’s not that big of an issue,” Parker said.
“Occasionally we have to mow or trim or weed-whack, but it’s not something we are too worried about,” Van Otterloo said.
The attitude towards living in houses tends to be the same for students who live further from campus. Corey Cameron and his roommate John Savell, both seniors majoring in mechanical engineering, live in a house off Hargrove Road and said they also enjoy living there more than their time on campus or in student housing complexes.
“I chose to live in a house because it is independent from a housing community, so I’m not immediately connected to the people above and around me, physically or socially,” Cameron said. “I can do what I want and my neighbors can do what they want, and we don’t have to worry about bothering each other.”
Cameron said he enjoys living in a house compared to his time living in an off-campus student housing complex.
“I lived [in the off-campus housing complex] for three years, and it reminded me so much of my dorm,” he said. “Now in this new house, it’s less claustrophobic. It allows me to be more productive in school. Having a unique floor plan makes you feel like you’re not in a cubicle. It’s our house.”
In neighborhoods farther away from campus, it is more likely that your neighbors will be families and less likely that they will be students. In these situations, residents must be mindful of how the way they live affects their neighbors. In Cameron’s and Savell’s neighborhood, this is exactly the case.
“We have families near us, so we can’t be throwing huge parties at night,” Savell said. “But it’s nice to break away from the cluster of campus, traffic and noise. It’s good to be kind of secluded.”
However, being farther from campus, Cameron and Savell said they always have to deal with the uncertainty of where they will be able to leave their cars when they go to class, especially with the construction happening on and around campus.
“I do worry about parking,” Savell said. “But the pros of living out here still outweigh the cons.”
Luckett, on the other hand, said that if there are any students are looking into possibly living in a house, the most important thing to consider is its proximity to campus.
“I would definitely say that location is everything,” she said. “If you’re planning on living in a house, I would recommend closer to campus.”
Cameron said living a significant distance from campus does not leave him feeling isolated from UA life.
“I still spend the majority of my time on campus every day,” he said. “I still read The Crimson White every morning, I still get coffee from Java City and I still do my homework in Gorgas. It’s just nice being able to go home off campus to relax so I’m not overwhelmed by being on campus all day.”
In addition to having his own space, Cameron said he likes living in a house because it gives him a sense of maturity and independence.
“I’m 23 years old,” he said. “Living in a dorm or an apartment with younger students seems strange. Living in a house feels more established. It’s preparing me for life after I graduate.”
One additional concern for living in an off-campus house is the occupancy limit that is placed on houses by the Tuscaloosa City Government. Tuscaloosa City Planner Megan Brantley said it is against the law in the city of Tuscaloosa for more than three unrelated individuals to live in a single dwelling unit.
“We do control occupancy limits, but that’s really the only thing that we do,” she said.
According to Brantley, there are some zones closer to campus that allow more than three unrelated people to live in one dwelling, but this is the result of a tradeoff limiting occupancy in historic areas to no more than two unrelated people in a single dwelling unit. If more than three unrelated people are found to be living in a single dwelling, the city of Tuscaloosa would hold the rental company at fault, not the tenants. Brantley said that this is because it is the rental company’s responsibility to uphold the laws and regulations that are put into place regarding occupancy limits.
For some students, the idea of being in a community surrounded by fellow students sounds appealing. But for others, like Cameron, Savell, Van Otterloo, Lewis, Parker and Smits, living in their own house is the best option available.
“If there is anyone thinking about making the move from a dorm or apartment into a house, it’s worth looking into,” Parker said. “I highly recommend it. Especially during football season.”