Monday, Oct. 23, 2023
Video by Chloe Anderson
Story by Shay Castle
Once upon a time, college students would camp overnight on sidewalks to get tickets to a concert. In Boulder, they’re waiting for housing.
A line started forming Monday — the first person got there at 11 a.m. — outside the offices of Boulder Property Management across Highway 36 from the University of Colorado. More than 60 people slept (or not) overnight in camp chairs, sleeping bags and the backseats of cars.
They were waiting to sign leases for next school year, preferably at a property close to campus and with enough rooms for their friends.
“The places that go first are single family houses on the Hill,” wrote Kristin Herlihy, BPM’s director of leasing. The campout started “within the last couple of years or so,” according to Herlihy.
BPM releases rent prices for the upcoming year (in this case, 2024-2025) on October 1. Existing tenants are given the option to renew their leases; they have until Oct. 17 to sign. After that, the company will offer properties without renewals; that’s what people are waiting in line for. This year, “about 70” new leases were signed, Herlihy wrote.
Students waiting in line typically have a list of their preferred properties, but because they don’t know who has renewed and who hasn’t, there’s no guarantee they’ll get the homes they want. Some take whatever is available: Last year, now-sophomore Brendan Church signed a lease sight-unseen with his group of friends.
That scarcity leads prospective renters to arrive as early as possible to be the first inside BPM’s offices in the morning. Freshman, frat pledges and faithful friends hold spots in line for older students.
“Our company doesn’t recommend to anyone to camp out,” Herlihy wrote. “We love the excitement that it creates, but it can also create a sense of stress, which we don’t want. We have plenty of units still available in all locations around Boulder. No one needs to rush into anything they aren’t sure they want.”
Many students want to be within walking distance of campus. They don’t have cars, and public buses stop running in the evenings. Newer apartments are too expensive, they said, and aren’t big enough for groups who want to live together. Just 1% of apartments built in the past decade have four or more bedrooms.
Many residents blame CU and students generally for Boulder’s persistent housing woes (although restrictive zoning and strong job growth also play a role). CU enrolls 30,707 undergraduate students and on-campus housing for 8,588 of them. (An additional 1,379 on-campus beds are provided to other populations.)
“CU Boulder recognizes the housing pressures facing our students, faculty, staff and the broader Boulder community,” spokesperson Stacy Wagner wrote in response to emailed questions. Housing is a “major focus” of the university’s campus master plan, and an additional 4,000 to 6,000 units are planned over the next 15 to 30 years, including 1,100 at a planned southern campus.
Watch the full video report from journalist Chloe Anderson, above.