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UW students protest against plan to privatize off-campus housing

UW's plan would allow a developer to renovate and rebuild four off-campus housing complexes that cater mostly to graduate students. Those students fear rent hikes

SEATTLE — On Wednesday, University of Washington students met at Red Square to protest against the university's plan to turn over operations of four off campus housing sites: Blakely & Laurel Village along with Nordheim and Radford Court. The four complexes cater mostly to graduate students, students with families and international students. 

Anne Duncan and Levin Kim, third and forth year PhD students, are leading the charge against this housing change.

"I actually heard about this through my union that I was going to be directly impacted by this decision," Duncan said.

Duncan says rent will more than likely increase, something UW has confirmed will happen. Currently, she pays $1,600 for rent which is about the 60% of the median price she'd pay for a similar apartment in Seattle. She'd have a hard time paying market rate.

"If rent goes up to market rate, I know I'm going to be severely rent burdened or have to move an hour from the university," Duncan said. "It would make my job and role as a student here a lot harder."

“For a lot of international students like myself, UW Family Housing is the most convenient place to live and often the place we choose to live," Kim said. "It's cheap and we don’t have to navigate Seattle tenant laws.”

Kim says UW's plans to bring in an outside developer to renovate, rebuild and run four complexes will make it harder for students to attend school. They're also frustrated with the perceived lack of respect and transparency from UW.

“Nothing has been proactively communicated to the tenants themselves and they’re also currently moving new tenants into these buildings even as they’re planning to demolish them later on," Kim said.

At the protest, students lamented about what could happen to them and their families if housing prices do go up. They say UW should pay them enough to cover potential increases.

UW Spokesperson Victor Balta sent the following statement about this matter.

"We understand that any change to the operations of housing could be a cause for concern to some, however the UW is approaching this potential change thoughtfully and in a way that we believe will ultimately benefit our students by creating more housing units at affordable prices, maintaining affordable rates for on-campus housing, and providing expanded childcare support for students with families.

To modernize and provide more family housing and single-student housing for UW students, while also generating the capital needed to replace or renovate three on-campus residence halls, the UW is seeking to enter into a ground lease agreement with a private developer to redevelop and create new apartments just east of the Seattle campus.

These new apartments will replace the University’s aging units currently at the Laurel and Blakely Village living sites near University Village.

The new family housing at Laurel Village will retain low rental rates and a new childcare facility there will expand childcare resources for students, faculty and staff. The 250 new apartments at the Blakely site will create living space for up to 900 students.

The ground lease agreement at Radford Court, adjacent to Magnuson Park, should also expand the availability of single-family apartments for students, faculty and staff.

The proceeds from these agreements will help the University continue to keep those on-campus residence hall rental rates affordable in the future and ensure continued adequate on-campus housing availability. The UW has expanded affordable on-campus residence hall living opportunities to thousands of additional students over the past decade.

This process is not yet approved or final. The goal is to get UW Regents’ approval in November 2023, replacing the family housing and adding single-student apartments by 2027 and replacing or renovating north campus residence halls by 2034."

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