As the spring semester comes to a close, soon-to-be-graduates have to begin thinking about life after college. A large part of figuring that out is housing.
Two major issues that renters in San Antonio face are the supply of affordable housing in light of rising rent and renters’ rights in a leasing situation. Christine Drennon, director of urban studies, explained that renters essentially have no rights in any dispute with a landlord.
“Say something is broken in your apartment, and you fix it ’cause your landlord won’t fix it. And you say, ‘I’m not paying 100 dollars out of my rent because I had to fix the dishwasher,’ and they say, ‘Well, no, now you’re in violation, and you’re evicted.’ You have no rights in that case,” Drennon said.
According to Drennon, state legislation has been resistant to allow any limits on the power of landlords, making local legislative change difficult. Drennon warns students to be wary of the fine print of leases.
“Be very very cognizant of that lease. Most of the city, most of the apartment complexes and most landlords use the same lease, but then they’ll often have a list at the very end of additional regulations that apply to that property,” Drennon said. “Pay close attention to that thing because you have no rights. There is no representation for you. You really need to be smart about what you’re walking into.”
However, before students have to deal with landlords they must find affordable housing. Average income of graduates is about $50,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. However, these statistics tend to be imprecise due to the wide discrepancy between incomes based on majors and the field pursued by graduates.
“Typically, people say they’re rent-burdened too much when they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, so it’s really going to depend on their major. Economics, say, you make a lot more than English,” said David A. Macpherson, professor of economics.
Drennon explains that if graduates are close to the average above they should find plenty of housing opportunities; if they are below this average, finding city housing can be difficult.
“We have plenty of what we would call market-rate rental housing for somebody making whatever the median income in San Antonio is and above,” Drennon said. “So that’s about 54–55,000 dollars and above. We’ve got lots of that housing. But if you make below that you’re probably going to need to find something, if it’s going to be in decent shape it’s going to have to be subsidized somehow, and we don’t have that. And most cities don’t right now.”
In order to combat this some have suggested capping the cost of rent, though this has been widely criticized by the economic world.
“If you put a cap on rent, who wants to build new rental facilities? You’d rather make a condominium rather than rent out apartments. So it reduces the housing supply and it turns out to be a shortage. If you put a rent control cap, more people will want to rent at the lower price than there are landlords willing to rent out, so it causes a housing shortage,” Macpherson said. “If we do have people who are having issues, provide subsidies rather than rent control.”
Drennon is currently leading a housing task force that is researching ways to tackle housing issues in San Antonio, like creating subsided housing.
Trinity’s own housing is not above San Antonio’s median trend. On campus dorms cost about $1,086.25 a month, which is slightly more than average rent in San Antonio. However, these come with a meal plan down paying the extra costs.
City Vista, on the other hand, costs more than average rent by a couple hundred dollars — depending on the room rented and number of roommates — and does not provide a meal plan included in the cost. Some rooms in City Vista can end up doubling the average cost of rent, as explained by junior student Hunter Sosby.
“[My room in City Vista] is way more expensive [than on campus living]. The only reason I’m able to do it is because I’m only here for one semester this year because I studied abroad in the fall.”
Sosby stayed in a small single room by himself which costs $7,226.5 per semester.
Though housing can be expensive at Trinity, most students face it with the potential of financial aid or outside help, whether that be parents or scholarships. Graduates are much more singular in their post-graduation housing situation. It is safe to say that San Antonio landlords will not be offering financial aid.