Today’s story on the high demand for large apartments in Collegetown underscores the need for substantial change in how Cornell does housing. It is not a sign of health that students feel compelled to sign leases well over a year before moving in — nor is it acceptable that many of those houses often exist in various states of perpetual disrepair. Cornell can and should do more to foster a better system of housing for upperclassmen, particularly in Collegetown.
Yes, Cornell has begun to implement its Master Housing Plan, including the much-trumpeted North Campus expansion, but we are skeptical that those efforts will ease the pressure on Collegetown rentals. Notwithstanding the fact that Cornell intends to increase enrollment by 900 students per class just as it begins to build more housing, the University’s North Campus construction reflects a key misdirection of effort.
Because the truth is, many Cornellians don’t want to live on campus as upperclassmen — and they certainly don’t want to live all the way on North Campus. They want to live with their friends in houses and apartments, not in dorms. And as long as the Collegetown real estate market remains constricted, students will be forced to pay high prices for subpar accommodations they had to reserve before submitting the Common App.
Furthermore, what will happen after the University completes its 2,000 bed expansion? That expansion is accompanied by a 900-1200-student increase in the undergraduate population, and what will those additional 225-300 students per class do after their sophomore year? They’ll likely want to live in Collegetown, and it’s unclear if the space can take it.
Will the private landlords build more housing to meet demand? Perhaps. But keep in mind these are the same landlords that have let Collegetown become a ghost town, the same landlords that hold prime real estate that has stood vacant for close to a decade. It’s been eight years since the four corners of the College-Dryden intersection had four tenants. We have scant faith in the landlords to rise to the occasion this time.
So it falls on Cornell, for better or for worse. The University must develop more off-campus housing for upperclassmen: apartment-style, rather than dorm-style like what currently exists. Whether this entails the refurbishment of Cascadilla, Sheldon Court or Schuyler, or the purchase of new real estate and new construction, we leave up to the folks in Day Hall. Maybe they can buy The Nines and fulfill a student’s dream of living in a firehouse.
But one thing’s for sure — simply adding more students and some fancy new dorms practically in Cayuga Heights won’t solve the problem.
Correction: A previous version of this editorial indicated that Cornell intends to increase its freshman class size by 900 — which would correspond to a 3,600 student increase in total enrollment. In fact, Cornell plans to increase total enrollment by around 900, which would increase freshman class size by only 225-300 students.