GW is facing a housing shortage of its own making. There are more undergraduates at GW this year than ever before after administrators admitted record-breaking freshman classes four years in a row. And as the spring housing lottery approaches, the math isn’t adding up for students in need of housing.
GW faces serious constraints on available housing options. Some of those limitations, like housing 70 percent of students on campus and requiring sophomores to live in residence halls, are stipulations in the campus plan. Other constraints are created by GW’s own decisions, like guaranteeing housing for juniors and seniors. Now administrators say they will not buy more buildings to house students on or near campus. But something has to give. GW simply lacks enough beds to require on-campus living for its largest class ever and to guarantee juniors and seniors a spot in residence halls.
GW is reluctant to push juniors and seniors out of residence halls because one of the major complaints of neighborhood residents is the increased student population in rental properties. And they certainly do not want GW buying the apartment buildings in which they live.
This dilemma requires a solution, and we think we have one. When GW bought the One Washington Circle hotel, administrators promised not to use it as a residence hall. But circumstances now warrant breaking that promise. The alternative is either buying buildings or pushing students into the rental real estate market – two things the community does not want. Adding One Washington Circle to the 200 planned beds in the new Elliott School of International Affairs building, which will be finished for next year’s residents, could bring GW closer to solving its housing problem.
GW may also need to buy or lease another building if, like last year, residence halls remain popular with returning juniors and seniors. The Best Western Hotel next door to Aston Hall would be a good choice considering students already live in that area and its acquisition would not displace residents.
The current situation appears bleak, but there are ways out of the housing crunch. These measures are only temporary. Long-term solutions will come in the form of planned residence halls up for zoning approval. Of course, the only permanent solution is to admit fewer students, but so far GW has ignored this approach.