The student housing crisis in Madison has become increasingly relevant over the past few weeks as students rush to sign leases for the 2023-24 academic year. One apartment building on campus, however, is accommodating their student residents and combating against the city’s housing market.
Pres House is a non-profit organization that has been on campus since 1907. Their mission has been to serve and prioritize the comfort of students for over 100 years. Pres House executive director Mark Elsdon recognized students’ housing struggles and decided to make a difference.
“There have been ups and downs over the years with housing, but this year in particular was really extreme,” he said. “Pretty much what it was, we just thought, ‘Is there some way we can figure out how to change that dynamic a little bit for students to have a different experience.’”
Most buildings in the downtown area around campus fill up their leases in early October. Pres House apartments are not official university housing, but their goal is to make apartment hunting easier for UW-Madison students.
For the first time this year, Pres House is staggering their leasing and intentionally holding back units instead of filling up the building in the early fall. One third of the units were saved for a November leasing window and for the second semester. In addition, half of the residents receive rent scholarships from active programs in the building.
Elsdon says this change not only gives more time to current students to find a place to live, but also makes room for prospective international and transfer students who do not yet know their roommates, scholarship opportunities or amenities offered by Pres House.
“Anything to make it a little bit more flexible for students to make choices about where they’re living that aren’t just financial choices but are life choices. Who they’re going to live with, what they’re going to be involved in, what kind of environment they want. That is very hard to do,” Elsdon said.
Because Pres House is a non-profit, all of the money earned from rent goes back into the student services they provide.
“We don’t exist to maximize the money. While there is this pressure, there are spaces. You might not get your top choice in your top exact location with your exact list of amenities, but you don't have to sign a lease in October,” Elsdon stated. “You can wait into the spring and even into the summer and there are places to live. It may not be exactly what you originally envisioned, but there are options.”