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Increased Enrollment Expected to Squeeze Already Tight CSU Housing

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Enrollment at Colorado State University in Fort Collins is expected to grow over the next decade but student housing is already in short supply.

KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke to Northern Colorado Business Report Publisher Jeff Nuttall about what might be in the works to alleviate the situation.

Larson: To put things into perspective – as of last fall – student enrollment at CSU was 27,500. Officials expect that number to be as high as 35,000 over the next decade and Jeff, that number could even be higher.

Nuttall: University officials are also aiming for attracting more students from out of state and even outside the country. They’ve partnered with a company called INTO University Partnerships to increase international enrollment by 1,000 over the next five years.

Larson: Student housing is already a tight commodity in Fort Collins – and even though this growth will come gradually – can developers keep up with the need?

Nuttall: Our sources say the demand will be met, but developers from outside the market will probably do most of the heavy lifting. If you look at the development that’s already happening, the two biggest student housing projects currently underway in Fort Collins are the result of outside developers making their mark in the city. The Grove and The Commons will include more than 1,200 beds put together, and their developers are located in North Carolina and Alabama. That’s not to say that local developers won’t be putting up student housing as well, but their projects will probably not be on the same scale with the huge developments being built right now.

Larson: What about on-campus housing? As we know life in the dorms is as much of the college experience as being in class. How much dorm space is there for CSU students?

Nuttall: Right now, there are about 5,300 beds on campus. There are some construction projects already in process, and they’ll be reconfiguring the use of some of the space they already have to add 1,000 new beds by 2015. After that, there are some other projects that could be considered, depending on the budget and other constraints that could add at least 600 more beds. And there’s uncertainty of putting a football stadium on campus that may complicate the housing space issue even further.

Larson: Where are all of the students living now?

Nuttall: Mostly in multi-family housing developments in the northwest part of Fort Collins. There are some who live in single-family homes or condominiums, but most live in apartments with a couple of roommates to help pay the rent. Vacancy rates are very low around campus, about 1.2 percent in the last quarter of 2011, which drives rents up. As the market gets tighter, the area with the highest rents will continue to expand. Price of a residence is the most important thing to students when they’re looking for a place to live, according to a survey by the city, and proximity is a close second.

Larson: Speaking of proximity – what about neighborhoods around campus and these new housing projects we’ve been talking about. I know there’s been some contention going between the various parties in involved.

Nuttall: You’re absolutely right. The Grove, which will be able to house more than 600 students, took over a year to get through the city’s approval process, because the residents in the surrounding neighborhoods appealed the planning and zoning board’s first decision on the matter. They said it wasn’t green enough and that it violated land-use codes. In the end, the plans for the project were reworked so it would be situated further away from wetlands in the area and from the homes. The neighbors attempted to appeal the planning and zoning board a second time, but were unsuccessful. With something like this, every case is different, and it’s important that developers be flexible and listen to community demands.

Larson: Jeff is the publisher of the Northern Colorado Business Report.

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