In the survey we asked students to tell us about their current housing, including involvement and satisfaction, and how they envision Cornell's future housing, including building types, locations, amenities, and services. We wanted to learn what’s important to students when choosing their housing and what they would like to see in future housing.
Cornell is an active partner in exploring solutions for housing issues for the campus and larger Ithaca communities. The Housing Master Plan process has been open and inclusive. Toward that end we:
—Assembled a broadly inclusive Working Group that included City and County officials to guide the process and test the recommendations along the way
—Established sub-committees for community leaders/planners, Greek alumni, and survey design
—Conducted 20 stakeholder meetings involving 68 community members
—Held eight student focus groups with 35 participants
—Collaborated with Tompkins County on their Housing Assessment Study
Integral to the Housing Master Plan process from the beginning has been the Community Advising Committee, comprising representatives engaged in planning and housing issues from the city, town, and county. This body works closely with Cornell Housing Master Plan staff to gather input and ensure coordination between Tompkins County’s and Cornell’s planning processes.
The university will be well-represented at the Housing Summit.
The Campus Master Plan is overseen by an implementation team appointed by the president called the Campus Planning Committee (CPC). Representatives of the Housing Master Plan Working Group have visited the CPC three times so far and will continue to update that group. The CPC members are very well versed in the Housing Master Plan process. The Campus Master Plan is directional and intended to promote ongoing dialogue; it is not intended to be a rigid directive. The Housing Master Plan will acknowledge the recommendations of the Campus Master Plan, and ongoing dialogue is expected to occur between the two groups as specific recommendations evolve.
Early in planning, we consulted with the Ithaca Landlords Association and we were given assurances that there was sufficient rental space capacity in the community to absorb the graduate and professional students who would no longer be accommodated by Maplewood in the short run. Staff in the Housing Office worked directly with last year’s Maplewood residents and with every student who reached out for assistance to help them find suitable alternative housing. Cornell’s Off-Campus Living office always provides services to students looking for rentals and maintains a listing service for landlords. This year they also hosted a webinar for prospective students planning to come to Ithaca that they could watch from wherever they are in the world to help them prepare for navigating the Ithaca rental housing market. It may have taken a little more time apartment hunting this year, but right now (in early September), there are still apartments available to rent in Ithaca.
Student and Campus Life will continue to share and test the concepts proposed in the Housing Master Plan. We are in the process of collecting input from constituent groups and the community at large as we explore how to achieve the objectives of the Master Plan. Vice President Ryan Lombardi is continuing to meet with student leaders to discuss the progress on teh Plan. A partial list of upcoming presentations and forums includes:
—Faculty Senate - November 9th
—Student Assembly - November 10th
—University Assembly - November 15th
—Student Assembly City and Local Affairs Committee Town Hall Meeting co-sponsored by the Collegetown Neighborhood Council - November 15th
—Tompkins County Housing Summit - December 1st
The Housing Master Plan working group and the external consultants have recognized affordability as an important consideration for the process from the beginning. The vacancy rate in the Ithaca housing rental market is extremely low (at or below 1% as reported in some analyses). It is generally assumed that such a low vacancy rate tends to drive prices up. While projects coming online, under development, or being planned are beginning to have some impact on improving the supply of rental stock, construction takes time. It is the proposed strategy of the Housing Master Plan to continue to support efforts throughout the community to improve the supply side of the rental market equation in order to coax prices in the direction of affordability.
Questions About Survey Results
This is exactly the type of question the housing master planning process will help us answer. A combination of strategies will be identified in the final plan that will form the foundation for subsequent design and construction of facilities that will meet current and future on-campus student housing and program priorities. We also note that the redevelopment of the Maplewood housing complex is already underway through a partnership with an external developer, Education Realty Trust (EdR). That facility, scheduled to open in Fall 2018, will provide high-quality housing targeted for graduate and professional students and will increase capacity over the old Maplewood Apartments (now closed) from about 384 beds to 887 beds in a variety of unit types.
Students cited as the most important features in their housing cost, proximity to classes, the ability to live with friends, the quality and aesthetic of the housing, and having all internet and utilities included in the cost. Freshmen also prioritized proximity to a dining hall, and upperclassmen prioritized having a single bedroom.
28% is actually an acceptable response rate for surveys of this type. The profile of our survey respondents is consistent with all Cornell graduate/professional students on measures of gender, graduate or professional school enrollment, housing location (on- or off-campus), and international/domestic origin.
Graduate and professional students cited wanting easy access to laundry facilities, private baths, quiet spaces, mail/package delivery, access to public transportation, and lower cost in their current housing.