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House Hunting at Howard: Students Grapple with the Stress of Finding Off Campus Housing

Aerial view of Howard University’s campus. Photo courtesy of The Dig.

Located in Washington, D.C., Howard University has nearly 10,000 students enrolled and counting, all coming from various parts of the world. However, with such a sizable population, the university does not have enough housing to accommodate all of its students.

Malik Woullard came to Howard University because, at the time, it “made the most sense,” he described. Drawn to the university for its learning environment, rich education and culture, Woullard would soon find himself engulfed in the stress of searching for off-campus housing, a problem that a majority of Howard students find themselves in. 

“They provide a lot of support for freshmen, and some for sophomores, but they don’t provide nearly as much support for upperclassmen, especially when it comes to housing,” Woullard said. “Our class is scattered everywhere, the people who are still here. Some people have been able to get scholarships and pay for off-campus housing, but not everyone is that lucky.” 

Woullard, a full-time honors senior economics major, has been living off campus since his junior year, and resorted to living in a house in Landover, Maryland, about a 30 minute drive from campus. He described the situation as less than ideal. “I was living with older people. I didn’t have a lot of autonomy over the space…Housing is super expensive in this area. To push people off campus at 20 years old, no credit, little credit- it’s kind of jarring,” he said. 

The first-year on-campus housing at Howard University includes Drew Hall (male), Cook Hall (male), Harriet Tubman Quadrangle (female) and College Hall North (co-ed). For continuing students, residence halls include College Hall South, Howard Plaza Towers East & West and Bethune Annex. In the continuing student dormitories, freshmen and sophomores have priority, leaving a majority of the junior and senior student population without on-campus housing. 

The Office of Off Campus Housing and Community Engagement has provided resources to find off-campus housing and apartments for students on the university website. The prices of the listed apartments range from $1,500 to upwards of $5,000. Popular off campus apartments include Vie Towers apartments and Mazza Grandmarc apartments. Both apartment complexes offer shuttle services for students commuting to Howard’s campus. The Office of Off Campus Housing and Community Engagement stated on their website that in order to pay for these apartments, some students “use scholarships, grants, private funding and loans to pay for their housing accommodations.”

The Hilltop reached out to the Office of Off Campus Housing and Community Engagement to discuss the university’s plan for housing students, however they did not respond in time for publication. 

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As move-out day approaches on May 8, students are preparing to secure housing for the upcoming year. Skylah Browne, a sophomore health science major who currently resides on-campus, has been searching for off-campus housing for the 2022-2023 academic year since November 2021. Browne is a part of the University’s graduating class of 2024, which accounts for nearly 2,300 students, a majority of which will be required to find off-campus housing for the upcoming school year. 

“Having to worry about finding something affordable near D.C., but not too far out, is hard,” Browne said. “Also, now having to save money to pay for rent and other bills that come with having my own apartment, while still attending school full-time.”

On March 23, Howard University announced a $785 million investment plan for renovations and construction for new academic buildings part of a phased Central Campus Master Plan (CCMP). The investment plan comes as the largest real estate initiative in the university’s history. The plan also includes the construction of up to 1,500 additional housing units. The construction projects are not expected to be completed until 2026. 

When asked how she felt about the CCMP and the efforts to invest into Howard’s on campus housing, Browne said, “It makes me feel indifferent because it doesn’t really affect me. By then, I’ll already have graduated. But it does give me hope for the next generations of HU students that they may have a better housing experience than I did, and hopefully they will be able to have guaranteed housing at least until junior year.”

The CCMP announcement came one semester after the month-long Blackburn student protest, where students called for transparency from the university and a plan that addressed the student housing crisis, among other things. 

Copy edited by: N’dia Webb

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