Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told residents at a 5th Ward meeting Thursday evening that area landlords may get a shock when they start seeking students to lease their off-campus apartments for next fall.
With Northwestern University requiring sophomores to live on campus starting next fall, at least several hundred students — most of whom, Bobkiewicz said, live in the 5th Ward — will be gone from the off-campus housing market.
Wally Bobkiewicz, speaking at the 5th Ward meeting.
Census data indicates there are roughly 5,700 apartment units within about of mile of Northwestern’s Evanston campus, out of a total of 13,194 rental units in the city as a whole.
Alan Anderson, NU’s neighborhood and community relations director, says typically about 600 second-year students have lived off campus.
Their absense could leave perhaps 200 to 300 apartment units without tenants. Depending on how concentrated the student population is in the area immediately adjacent to campus, the change could dramatically increase vacancy rates in the close-to-campus market segment.
“Other communities have been through this,” Bobkiewicz said. It happened in Columbus, Ohio, a year ago, he said, “and totally turned their student housing market upside down.”
“Landlords there,” Bobkiewicz said, “didn’t realized until Christmas of the year before when they started getting deals lined up for the fall semester, how big an impact it was going to have.”
Asked by a resident whether the student rentals could be converted to housing for families, Bobkiewicz said that is a possibility, but “not every property is probably ready to be a single family home.”
The City Council, he said, has started discussions about affordable housing, and there’s a lot of interest in making an investment in existing affordable housing, he added, but until landlords realize they have a problem, not much is likely to happen.