Monday, March 31, 2008

Students in (Mortgage) Crisis

My husband and I were very lucky that we bought our house years ago when housing prices were low and interest rates were reasonable, and we were able to get a nice house near campus. It helps me balance family and career to be able to get between home and work and my daughter's school quickly and easily, but if we were buying a house today, it is unlikely we could afford to own a house so close to campus.

Several of my graduate and undergraduate students have recently had their lives disrupted because their apartments were in houses or apartment buildings that went into foreclosure. Some have already had to find a new place and move, and some have to move within the next 1-2 months. When students move, it is typically in the summer, rather than during the academic year when they have very little time, so these unexpected moves have been extremely inconvenient for them.

Yet another student told me on Friday that he was going to have to move owing to his landlord's financial problems, and that as a result he might not be able to get as much work done as we had planned for April. This student is an undergraduate research assistant who is paid by the hour, so, unlike a graduate research assistant, if he doesn't work, he doesn't get paid. And if he can't work sufficient hours, I might have to hire someone else to make sure the most essential work gets done by a looming deadline that cares not for student housing woes, no matter how sympathetic I may be.

Even without the current mortgage crisis in the U.S., students are too often the victims of irresponsible or even unethical landlords, as I well know from my own experience with an avaricious, grasping, duplicitous, thieving scoundrel of a landlord when I was in graduate school. And now this. In addition to the problems that make the news, the mortgage crisis has generated a cascade of lost time and productivity that affects graduate and undergraduate students, and all those who work with them.


Anonymous said...

Never thought about things from this angle. Typically most investors I know see renters as a source of income. Sorry to hear your students are being messed with.

Katie said...

It seems like everywhere I go, people are telling me how they can no longer buy close to universities due to lack of affordable housing. Normal, well-educated, 2-Ph.D. couples often making upwards of $150k per year cannot find convenient housing in many parts of the country. What I want to know is: Who are all of these people would CAN afford the housing? What do they do? And how can I get that much money??

mrs social science phd said...

i am glad that you seem to care for your students the way i wish my professors did. i haven't been kicked out of my house, but i do have multiple health problems that i have had to deal with during my graduate career including eye problems making it difficult to do any type of research. i do not think my professors care or would be very understanding.

Anonymous said...

The people who can afford the houses you want are lawyers in Big Law, and folks who joined software companies at the right time. :-)

Ms.PhD said...

Amen, physioprof, though I'm especially amused by your colorful language. Did you watch Lil Bush last night on Comedy Central?

FSP, you must be in a part of the country where there are lots of foreclosures. We're doing okay in my neck of the woods, although there was no way MrPhD and I could dream of owning a house on postdoc salaries, and lately we're laughing that at least we don't have to worry about THAT particular problem. We know a couple of people who went into mortgage contracts that are now sending them into enormous debt.

So we might be poor, but at least we're not in debt.

Of course MrPhD's mom is trying to tell us that NOW is the time to buy, since prices are so low!

Too bad we still don't know how long we'll be here, or where we'll be going next. Doesn't seem to make any sense to buy something when it might not be sellable for 5+ years, assuming the economy will eventually recover instead of just getting worse and ever-worse.

Anonymous said...

How interesting to find a discussion about this issue here!

About a month ago I was forced to move out of my old apartment, although this did not have anything to do with the mortgage crisis and everything to do with the fact that despite my landlord being a grad student at the same Univ. as me- she was still frighteningly crazy.

I had a very difficult time expressing to the other non-academic people in my life just how incredibly it sucked to move two weeks before the end of quarter. I lived in terror of anything happening to my computer in the move.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit late to this post, but I have a story of a really low-life landlord. When I was a TA last year, I had a student who missed an exam and the excuse was that they were being evicted from a house they rented. The eviction was due to the landlord's negligence and the students who rented this house had been given no warning from the landlord until one day the sherrif showed up to evict them. The sherrif showed some mercy and gave them a few days to find new housing, rather than toss them out that day. The student provided proof of the eviction notice and the prof allowed him to make up the missed exam.