HOVA housing prices rise, residents threaten to not renew lease

Many graduate students living in the Hall on Virginia Avenue say they’re moving out next year due to a large increase in housing rates.

This year, students living in HOVA pay $700 per month including utilities such as cable television, Internet access and housekeeping. Next year, the price for a single room will rise to $900 per month, an almost 30 percent increase.

The price change is mostly because this year’s price was abnormally low, said Johnnie Osborne, associate vice president and chief financial officer of Student Academic Support Services. He said because the building was in its first year of occupancy by graduate students, administrators were unsure of how many students wanted to live in the dorm.

“We figured at least to introduce (HOVA) at low rates to see what the interest would be for graduate students … This year we went forward with bringing it in line with other room rates that we have on campus and in the market,” Osborne said.

Within two weeks of making the residence hall available for graduate students, all the rooms were filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. Since the residence hall was successful, the University is raising prices to a level where it will no longer be operating at a loss, said Seth Weinshel, assignments director of GW Housing Programs.

He added that another reason prices were so low was that a lot of students were living alone in a double. Next year all rooms will be offered as singles.

Graduate students upset with the $900 price tag don’t realize how expensive housing in the Foggy Bottom area is, Weinshel said.

“If they find that they can live somewhere else cheaper, they can go right ahead,” he said. “If you look at what the market in Foggy Bottom is, we’re still lower at $900.”

Several HOVA residents said the price hike makes the building is less appealing to live in because there is one shared kitchen for the entire residence hall and the parking is expensive.

“The reason I live here is because it’s cheaper than most places,” said Sandy Cho, a first-year medical student. “You might as well get another place with a kitchen for $900 a month.”

Some students said they knew this year’s rates were far too low, but still believe the increased price is not worth it.

“I expected it to happen because it was so cheap for a single, but because of the increase, I’m definitely going to move out,” said Mary Evans, a first-year graduate student in the Elliott School. “There’s six of us that live here that are all friends, and we’re all moving out.”

Evans said, though, that many residents will stay next year despite the rate increases. HOVA, which houses many international students, is a good fit for people who want housing close to campus for a reasonable rate, she said.

As part of the current Campus Plan, an agreement between Foggy Bottom residents and the University on restrictions to University development, GW made a commitment to remove undergraduates from the off-campus buildings HOVA, City Hall and the Aston. Undergraduates could no longer be housed in HOVA, a renovated Howard Johnson’s Hotel, starting fall 2006 and the Aston will house law students in fall 2007.

Because the University is unable to house undergraduates in the Aston next year, more than 100 first-year law students are expected to move in next fall.

Deans in the Law School were optimistic about the new venture, and said the building’s availability will bring the school up to par with other law schools that offer housing options.

“If you’re a student and you’re choosing between two top-20 law schools, (housing) might tip the scales,” said David Johnson, senior assistant dean for the Law School’s Student Affairs.

Law School rooms in the Aston, which will offer singles with kitchens, are priced at $1,200 per month, Weinshel said Friday. Participating students are required to sign a ten-month lease, Weinshel added.

Law School Dean Fred Lawrence said senior administrators decided in September to give the building to the school for its use.

“(Housing) is helpful in a number of ways in terms of recruiting students, many of whom are new to Washington,” Lawrence said.

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