University’s rental properties to be renovated, rents raised

Many off-campus rental properties will be repaired/renovated and have their rents raised to better align with market prices. (Image in the public domain)

By Ronna Fisher, Assistant editor

The Cabinet approved changes to SNU’s off-campus rentals during their April 1 meeting. These changes include plans for renovations and repairs, the creation of a waiting list, and the raising of rents to levels closer to the market rent in the 73008 zip code

SNU owns over forty off-campus properties that are open to the public for renting.  According to Micheal Houston, associate dean of student development, these properties are owned by the university, but they are run outside of the university; they generate revenue, but no student tuition, student fees, or university money goes toward the enterprise.

This summer, about 12 to 15 SNU owned houses will not have their leases renewed in order to leave them empty for renovation.

In an interview with The Echo, Houston explains how the housing works, why the renovations are taking place, and changes that will occur in SNU’s property system.  Houston took over direction of the properties in January.

“Many of the properties are not in a great state of repair, and over the last couple of years they haven’t been breaking even.  So, one of the first things I’ve been charged with is to at least get them breaking even,” Houston said.

This will result in raising rents and conducting repairs.  The properties are, on average, rented at the 20th percentile for all rental properties in the 73008 zip code. The plan is for rents to be raised to at least the 40th percentile.

Many tenants are paying below the rent market, and Houston explains that many tenants’ rent will be raised, by $50 to $250 depending on the house.

According to a memo from Student Development provided to the Echo, some properties are already being rented at or near the 40th percentile. The memo states that if rent increases will be significant, they will be phased in over time with the goal of being at or near the 40th percentile by January 2014.

All of these changes have been discussed and decided with Robyn Riley, property manager, and Ron Lester, director of facilities.

The renovations will be paid for by selling one large property that is on the outskirts of the usual SNU owned houses, and residents will begin moving out of the houses by June.  According to Houston, the goal is to have the first group of approximately twelve houses renovated by September 1st.  Most of the housing is found within a couple of blocks of the school towards Donald Street.

Most of the properties rent on a month-to-month lease.  Houston reasons that this kind of lease provides protection for both the tenant and the property owner.

Most of the tenants are new graduates, young married couples, and people who have just moved to Oklahoma.  Rather than a six-month lease that is unfair for people who may be searching for jobs and need to move, a monthly lease provides flexibility.

Another change for SNU owned properties is the creation of a formal waiting list.  There will now be a two-month waiting list based on the type of house an applicant will desire.

“When a house is available, we call you, and if you turn it down, you will be moved to the bottom of the list.  After two months time, you’ll get a notification that you’ll be moved off the list, and you’ll have to reapply,” Houston said.

This will allow all applicants a chance to cycle through.  Houston said, “We will only do leases with one person per house or group.  The lease isn’t transferable to friends . . . I think people don’t like that, but it’s the only way to be fair. Otherwise, that house may never come on the list [to be available].  This is the real world; this is how any other place would work.”

Editor’s note: Click here to access the memo from Student Development