NewsMissoula County

Actions

UM students overwhelmed by housing crunch

702 Arthur Avenue
UM pharmacy student Haley Meredith
Posted at 5:12 PM, Apr 22, 2022

MISSOULA - The Missoula Organization of Realtor's (MOR) latest report on the city's housing crisis shows inventory is down and prices are up — as we all know.

That goes for rentals too. Just two years ago, prices for a studio were over $700 and more than $1,000 dollars for a two-bedroom. And if you needed a place with four or more bedrooms, you paid over $1,600 in 2020.

Fast forward to this year and a studio is close to $800, a two-bedroom is now $1,146 on average and those four-bedroom places now cost over $1,700 a month.

This crisis is especially being felt by those in the University of Montana community.

"We just say how lucky we are, that we can’t believe we found this place, but it looks like our luck’s run out, said Haley Mereifth as she looked around her tidy home on Authur Avenue.

From the curb appeal to the monthly rent, the two-bedroom home situated just a block from campus proved practically perfect for the first-year pharmacy student.

“You’ll see some one-bedroom’s going for the same price as this two-bedroom,” said Meredith.

702 Arthur is one of 36 rentable homes owned by the University of Montana, according to UM spokesperson Dave Kuntz.

If she had it her way, Meredith would renew her lease every year until finishing her pharmacy program, but the University has other plans.

“One of our maintenance and grounds people told us one evening, very apologetically, that our lease would not be allowed to be renewed,” explained Meredith.

UM will soon remove about six of the units from available inventory. They plan to renovate the homes and make them more habitable and suitable for longer-term leasing activity.

With 702 Arthur on the chopping block, Meredith has a lot to consider.

“I’m thinking about my finals week and how I’ll be checking Craigslist every 30 minutes while I’m trying to study,” said Meredith.

She also worries about the financial burden in finding a new place. As a full time student, she works only 10 hours a week.

“We wanted to be good stewards of this place for the next four years, but we won’t get that opportunity.”

Options moving forward look grim for the soon-to-be house-less students of the University District.

Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Missoula is $1,146 according to the latest MOR report, and university housing is in high demand.

“We are trying very hard to get as many students in as we possibly can,” said UM housing executive director Sandy Curtis.

Curtis told MTN News that both on and off-campus housing are nearly maxed out.

“The last 10 years we really haven't been full in our residence halls,” said Curtis. “We’re now in the stage where we're probably going to be very full in our residence halls with maybe just a few vacancies.”

Housing staff say they’re trending 300 dorm applications ahead of where they were last year at this time, but as quickly as applications come in, living units come down.

“We have over 300 spots offline with our Knowles Hall renovation that will be down for this next year,” said Curtis.

Part of Craig Hall is also down as a new dining hall is built in its place, and dormitory Aber Hall has been reconfigured to house offices.

“For the last seven years, Duniway Hall has been single rooms for students and we will be doubling that building over this next year so that we can accommodate more students,” confirmed Curtis.

For UM officials, construction means growth, but for displaced students like Meredith, construction is as stressful as final exams.

“I’m thinking about the savings that I had booked up and how they're not going to go as far anymore, unless I happen to find a cheaper place, which seems unlikely,” said Meredith.