Some students say luxury apartments are worth the price

Housing costs have risen along with new complexes.
October 26, 2011

An influx of luxury apartments near campus is drawing students away from their traditional dinky dwellings.

In the past two years, University of Minnesota area neighborhoods gained many complexes — four in Dinkytown alone — geared at providing students with a higher standard of living, and demand continues to grow.

“This is a phenomenon approaching the campus right now,” said Curt Gunsbury, a property owner.

Gunsbury’s company, Solhem, opened luxury complex Solhaus in Stadium Village in August. Another complex will break ground nearby by the end of the year.

Apartments like Solhaus are considered luxury because they offer students extra amenities like exercise rooms, heightened security, indoor parking and proximity to campus. They also come with a higher price.

John Moen, who lives at GrandMarc Seven Corners, pays about $750 per month for his bedroom and bathroom in a four-bedroom apartment.

He and his parents began the housing search months before Moen moved into his apartment, touring complexes like Dinnaken House and Stadium View.

“[My parents] are paying for a lot of the costs, so they have a big say in what works and what doesn’t,” Moen said.

Demand for better housing and a closer location has steadily increased over the past decade, said Matt Mullins, vice president of business development at Maxfield Research Inc, which studies renting trends in Minneapolis neighborhoods, including around the University.

In an informal survey by the Minnesota Daily of 40 students living within walking distance of campus, 37 said they are willing to pay a premium for location.

But for some the proximity price tag is too costly.

“I’ve never heard of a parent or student who didn’t complain when they find out rents are going up,” said senior Andrew Clarke, who commutes from Brooklyn Park to campus.

Each morning, Rachael Balstad gears up for a 30-minute bike ride to and from school. But the added time saves the junior up to $500 a month in rent compared to apartments in luxury locations.

Balstad recently moved to the Stevens Square neighborhood from Dinkytown.

Gunsbury said the University market is simply playing a catch-up game with other colleges nationwide to meet the demand.

“The University is changing,” he said. “If you go to other universities around the country that are similar to the [University], you find a greater array of higher-end housing options.”

But Mullins said the trend is not permanent.

“Sooner or later, one of [the newer] projects might suffer,” he said. “The rents are getting so high.”

Balstad, who took out more student loans this semester to help cover her rent, said she’s shocked by the University’s market trends.

She said her situation is different than many students.

“If people can afford to pay the high rents, they’re going to pay them,” she said. “But I think it’s unsustainable.”

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