Town of Blacksburg addresses limited housing

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7)— Virginia Tech is continuing to look at strategies to accommodate the bigger freshman class headed to Blacksburg, meanwhile, residents and older students who live in the community continue to worry about overcrowding in the town.

On Tuesday, crews on campus were busy preparing for those extra students to come to Virginia Tech.

“This particular surge is a challenge deal with there’s no doubt about it,” said university spokesman Mark Owczarski. “It’s a challenge that we’re grateful in many respects to have because it shows that people want to be here.”

Virginia Tech now plans to house about 325 students at the inn on campus and another 200 at the Holiday Inn down the street.

“We want to provide [students] with the same services and the same support as we do in all of our campus residence halls,” Owczarski said.

“Those two strategies combined with a modest level of tripling and putting students into lounges will enable us to manage the approximately 1,000 students that we needed to manage above our goals. “

Owczarski said hotels are built like a residence hall with open doubles. He said they plan to have full time staff at these locations and a resident assistant on each floor to make it like living on campus.

“We’ve got time to get all of that in place, and when opening week rolls around, we’ll be able to provide that experience for those students there as we do with our students here on campus,” he said.

But there are still students who decided to make alternative living arrangements and to stay off campus.

“It’s definitely hurting those students more than it’s helping them not being able to live on Virginia Tech’s campus,” said rising senior Nate Brennan. “I think it’s very important for students to I wouldn’t say be forced into living on campus, but I think it’s a learning adjustment that students should have to go through.”

Although Brennan was fortunate enough to make his living arrangements during his junior year, he said many of his friends are experiencing difficulties finding places that are also affordable.

“Even if they are able to find a place it’s been inflated substantially just because of the fact that there are so many students and they have to live in places like that,” Brennan said. “Those prices are going to continue to inflate until Virginia Tech can figure out the housing issue. I don’t think it’s the ideal amount of students for a town that’s this small.”

On Tuesday night, the town held an open discussion with the community to keep the conversation going on this issue.

“It’s because of that housing stock that’s affordable. The students compete with that market and there’s a limited stock,” said Matt Hanratty, the assistant to the town manager.

Hanratty said it’s important to incentivize developers wanting to come to the area and expand.

“With a density bonus we might allow you to build 15 houses instead of 10, but we want some of those houses to be affordable to people at certain income levels,” he said.

Hanratty said they’re focusing on creating more housing, keeping it affordable and green.

“It is a challenge, it is a pressure point,” Owczarski said. “That’s why we’re working with the town and area businesses to try to figure out the best solutions overall to meet the needs of a wide range of people.”

At the end of this academic year, Owczarski said they plan to turn the hotels back into hotels. He also said housing is only one of many issues that comes with this over-sized freshman class including making sure they have the right classes, teachers to instruct, classroom space to instruct, food to feed the students are only a few of the issues they are working on resolving before August.

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