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UW housing deal with private developer may add hundreds of new off-campus student apartments

Project years off before any activity can be expected

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UW Housing

Several of UW’s popular off-campus student apartments may soon get substantial makeovers. UW is looking to lease Blakeley Village, Laurel Village, and Nordheim Court — all located close to University Village and Radford Court, near Magnuson Park — to a private or nonprofit student housing developer. The restructuring is slated to begin in either 2024 or 2025. 

According to Robert Lubin, director of facilities and capital development for Housing & Food Services, there are two major reasons for this change. The first is to create the necessary funding to rebuild Haggett Hall and renovate Hansee Hall and McMahon Hall, while the second is to create additional nearby off-campus student housing for single room upperclassmen, graduate students, and students with families. 

“During a 10-year period, we had to raise [on-campus student housing] rents to help cover the cost of rebuilding some of the dorms,” Lubin said. “By leasing these properties, on-campus student housing rental rates won’t increase with the debt service from rebuilding.” 

The work to rebuild and renovate the remaining old on-campus housing is projected to cost about $400 million, according to Lubin. This project will impact students in a variety of ways including an increase in off-campus student housing options. 

“Over the past decade, the UW has increased housing on campus by over 50% and we have just over 10,000 beds now,” Lubin said. “But we are still seeing housing demand at a high level and are continuing to run a waiting list for students … If you look at the University District, high rise student housing is being built which are more expensive to build, and therefore, rents are more expensive in comparison to the [on and off-campus] housing we are building.” 

With regard to off-campus housing, Nordheim currently consists of 399 apartments with the space to add hundreds of more apartments. Since Nordheim Court and Radford Court are newer properties, they are expected to be renovated or expanded, rather than replaced. 

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In contrast, Blakeley Village and Laurel Village were built in the 1980s and have been considered for redevelopment. Currently, 80 student housing apartments are offered at each of these properties. Under UW’s plan, Blakeley Village could be replaced by 250 apartments and Laurel Village by 320 apartments.

According to Lubin, rental rates at Blakeley Village and Laurel Village are currently around 40% below market rate. UW intends to maintain similar rental rates for 160 of the new student apartments at Laurel Village. All other student housing will likely be at market rate. While the new off-campus student housing is under construction, student housing at Blakeley Village and Laurel Village won’t be available, and, consequently, their lower rent rates also won’t be accessible to students.

“I think even for a quarter, those repercussions are going to be immense,” Ellah Fornillos, a third-year undergrad living in off-campus housing, said. “And accessibility to affordable housing should not be an impediment to whether people can attend school or not. And, if UW does decide to do this timeline, that's going to be a reality regardless of what their intentions are for students. The reality is that people aren't going to be able to afford to come to UW, because they can't afford to live here.” 

Reach contributing writer Talia Ikezawa at Twitter: @IkezawaTalia

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