With the 2022-2023 academic year in full swing, prelims have yet to begin for Cornell students, but the hunt for rental housing has.
A 2014 New York Times article listed the top 20 least affordable cities to rent in the United States relative to median gross income, placing Ithaca as number 11, right behind New York City. In addition to increasing rental prices, students are being forced to look for housing much earlier than in previous years.
“I signed a lease for my current house last year on September 19 — which was early then,” Megan Vincek ’24 said. “This year, my friends and I started looking shortly after arriving here in August. It became a vicious cycle of looking at a place, liking it, eventually deciding to sign and then it being taken off the market.”
Vincek said the fast paced housing search was overwhelming at times, especially on top of her normal workload.
“It got to the point where I felt desperate and ended up crying on the side of College Avenue after weeks of trying to find somewhere to live for next year,” Vincek said.
Similar to Vincek, Rebecca Parish ’25 explained the anxiety the housing process has brought on, especially as it is her first time looking for off-campus housing.
“This is my first time looking to rent an apartment in Ithaca. The experience has been very overwhelming and difficult,” Parish said. She mentioned that she has had to worry about plans for the next year before having the chance to settle into her current housing.
“I feel like there is pressure to make decisions about my junior year when I still feel like a first-year,” Parish said.
Increased rental prices can be attributed to the high demand for housing in Ithaca, especially Collegetown. Many landlords in Ithaca have very few vacancies, as there’s a consistent stream of new University students looking to rent.
The Student Agencies building was one of the first places to begin renting for the 2023-2024 school year in early September, acting as a catalyst for the rush to sign a lease. Other rental agencies, such as Urban Ithaca, Lambrou real estate, and Modern Living Rentals, also began opening up their units for rent to keep up with the high demand.
Caroline Kelman ’25 attributed her stress to the volume of people looking for apartments in Collegetown so early into the semester, worried it will affect rent prices.
“I had signed a lease before Labor Day weekend— at that point, I had only been on campus for two weeks, and it felt crazy to already be making decisions for the next year,” Kelman said. “With so many students living in Collegetown with not much space, the demand and prices can definitely increase.”
Similarly, Genie Enders ’25 felt incredibly rushed before signing a lease.
“I definitely have felt rushed and began looking earlier than I expected,” Enders said. “There were a few places that my roommates and I wanted to put offers on, but by the time we decided we wanted to do so, the places had already been signed to other students.”
Vincek finds the increase in prices shocking, and believes some realtors take advantage of college students.
“Buffalo and Syracuse are bigger cities than Ithaca but have cheaper housing rates. That seems absolutely absurd to me,” Vincek said. “The renting process this year has been much more difficult. My friend and I showed up to sign a lease at the same time as two other people. The landlord said that whoever could get them the deposit in cash first got the place. My friend and I lost and were left feeling cheated and frustrated.”