FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. KNWA/FOX24 (KNWA/FOX24) — Tenants at a Fayetteville apartment complex who aren’t college students are having to find new housing. This is causing concern for people who now have to look for other affordable housing options.
“You’re displacing people and it’s not right,” said Ruby Minks.
“Currently, I’m homeless,” said Jacqueline Hooper.
Both are former tenants at Varsity House apartment complex in Fayetteville. They say they are having to find different paths for housing ever since the Scion Group bought the complex in November.
“The do not want non-students living there,” said Hooper.
Michelle Pearson is the Regional Vice President of operations for the Scion Group.
She said in an email that Scion has a focus on providing off-campus housing for students across the nation. The company recently announced a policy that going forward, applicants need to show their student enrollment at any college or university in the area. Starting in about six months from now, current residents who aren’t students, and who haven’t signed a lease for next year yet, won’t be able to extend their current leases.
“For me to go to college right now isn’t a feasible thing for me,” said Minks. “So that means I am going to be without a home.”
Varsity House has rent-by-the room units. Hooper lives on social security because of her mental disabilities, and only had to pay $425 a month in rent, which was well within her means.
“To find a one bedroom apartment out there for $400 is going to be problematic,” said Jeff Cooperstein, an Economist Senior Research Assistant at the University of Arkansas. “There are few out there, probably more in Springdale, but they are going to be old.”
Minks is a street minister who works with those who are homeless in Fayetteville. She doesn’t understand the benefit of this student-only policy.
“Why would they do that to the citizens of Fayetteville? I don’t get it,” she said. “Why don’t you make housing available for people in a lower income?”
“We are definitely seeing prices going up in Fayetteville,” said Cooperstein.
He said having 5% of rental availability in a community is a steady place to be. Anything lower than that means there may not be enough supply to meet demand. He said Fayetteville is currently at 3%.
“If vacancy rates are tight, that means you don’t have to lower your prices in order to get people to live there because there is a lack of supply,” he said.
Fayetteville isn’t the only place seeing a rise in rental prices. Data from Realtor.com shows that in the 50 largest U.S. metro areas, median rent rose 19.3% from December 2020 to December 2021.
Cooperstein said rising costs in materials being used to build new complex is a factor in rising prices. He also said the median income is starting to trend upwards, which means people in general can afford these prices. But for people on the lower side of the income scale, it’s making things harder.
“That’s probably why there’s so many homeless people honestly because I’m dealing with it right now myself,” said Hooper. “I cannot find affordable housing.”
Hooper and Minks said they feel like they are being discriminated against. However student or non-student are not a protected class under the law. Federal anti-discrimination laws only protect age, race, national origin, religious beliefs, gender, disability, pregnancy and veteran status.
Pearson said they are fully honoring existing leases signed through the 2022-2023 school year.