New UI student apartments raise concern but benefit C-U

    City leaders said the new developments are contributing to the growth of Champaign-Urbana. (WCCU)

    If you are driving through the University of Illinois campus, it is likely you will pass by a construction zone and advertisements of new student-targeted apartments.

    Within the last 10 years, the number of new student units has spiked and while some are concerned, city leaders said the new developments are contributing to the growth of Champaign-Urbana.

    “I’ve definitely noticed in the past few years there were a lot more new buildings being built and the rent has gone up,” UI student, Bruce Hu said. “I personally don't think as students we need luxury apartments, because we're mostly spending our parents’ money.”

    The number of new and luxury apartments are sky high in Campustown.

    “Honestly I feel like campus is getting kind of crowded, so I wish they weren't building all of them,” UI student, Thomas Fallon said.

    In 2017, a federal comprehensive housing market analysis reported the estimated student apartment vacancy rate in Champaign-Urbana was roughly 12 percent in 2016 -- up from about 7 percent a year earlier.

    “I just look for somewhere cheap to live. That's like the main thing and then proximity to campus,” Fallon said.

    While some feel like the new units are over-saturating, the rental market and raising the price of rent, the city of Champaign said it may drive other rents down.

    “More units that are put into the market is going to drive rent, which makes some units more affordable for others,” Champaign Senior Planner for Economic Development, TJ Blakeman said. “It’s always good to see people continuing to invest in Champaign.”

    Blakeman said the investments benefit the city.

    "It means more tax revenue, it means more services could be provided and better quality of life for our residents.” Blakeman said.

    The city of Champaign plays the oversight role reviewing developers’ permits and projects to make sure they don't hurt surrounding buildings.

    “The zoning code is designed specifically to help mitigate those issues -- the conflict between maybe a lower density residential or a medium density residential, whether that's setting the building back or not covering so much of the yard,” Blakeman said.

    Blakeman said many of the new units are replacing buildings that were on those sites.

    "We have our zoning and our building code review that each of those projects has to meet the high quality development that we expect and require here in the city,” Blakeman said.

    If a developer meets requirements, they don't need much else from the city other than approval of their permits so they can build their project.

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