The ironic case of student luxury apartments
Student luxury apartments. The phrase itself almost sounds oxymoronic.
Luxury apartments for a group of people who have traditionally been known to not have money — the phrase ‘broke college student’ didn’t appear out of thin air — Doesn’t make much sense. Constructing apartments in a luxury bracket for students who are paying tens of thousands of dollars (or rather, becoming indebted) annually to their schools seems like one of the worst business decisions possible to make.
And yet – it’s not. It’s actually the opposite. It’s proven to be a lucrative business, and an interesting anecdote to look into as part of Atlanta’s larger obsession with luxury apartments.
The idea of housing has evolved. In 2007 when Georgia State University debuted its newest apartment-style dorms, known as Commons, they were state of the art. They were even recognized in 2011 for having the best dorms in the country.
Fast forward a decade later, the facility pales in comparison to the student luxury complexes being erected around the city. One was even built in the last five years directly across the street from GSU’s Commons.
Technically speaking, these luxury apartments marketed to students are available for anyone — not just students. But they’re undeniably marketed towards students. Rent is divided up per person or bedroom in a unit, leases often start a week before school and end at the end of July.
Technology Square, colloquially known as Tech Square, is home to five luxury student apartment buildings alone, two being built within the last three years. Many of these buildings have sister buildings around other large college hubs like Athens and the University of Georgia.
Tech Square undoubtedly has a lot to offer — Fortune 500 companies right at your doorstep, a vibrant Midtown community walkable both to Georgia tech and Piedmont Park, MARTA stations nearby, and the once world’s busiest Waffle House.
But the prices on the student-marketed apartments are anything but student friendly. As of mid August, 2022, when this piece was written, prices for a two bedroom unit ranged anywhere from $1,400 to$1,600 per person. A one bedroom can go from $1,800 to $2,000, and studios don’t typically go below $1,700. All this before utilities, renter insurance, groceries, etc. Don’t forget parking, either — some buildings charge $125 a month to park.
Yet these buildings are almost all at or near capacity.
That said, dorms are still an option. I don’t want to make it seem like students are forced to lease these apartments, because they’re not. It also doesn’t miss me that I realize most students are not paying for these apartments themselves. How could they? Again: broke college students make the very idea ironic and nonsensical.
Thus, the problem isn’t just Tech Square. Granted, given Georgia Tech’s location in a bustling city and prices will undoubtedly be higher than apartments in college towns where the only draw for miles is the campus itself. Luxury student apartments catered towards Georgia State students show a similar pattern to Tech Square student apartments. Rather, these student luxury apartments are an anecdote that reflects a larger obsession with luxury apartments in the City of Atlanta.
Atlanta building only luxury apartments
A recent analysis concluded that upwards of 94 percent of all new apartments constructed within the last decade in Atlanta were luxury apartments. That’s out of about 48,000 units added from 2012 to 2021.
In short, Atlanta continues to build these luxury apartments that attract new residents in higher income brackets. As a growing city, adding apartments is essential to providing housing for everyone. But if housing that was built for some of the historically poorest groups of people continues at a luxury rate, what will it mean for regular apartments?
The way Atlanta developed the last decade, I’m not sure it has been. But if we can’t ensure that the choice isn’t a dormitory or a crazily priced student apartment, then we’ll never address our issues of affordable housing for the rest of the city. Poor people will continue to be forced to lease substandard housing and be pushed into undesirable neighborhoods.
I’m guilty of living in one of these myself. I won’t name which one in the interest of privacy, but I will say that my building, like others around it, was made to impress. It’s luxury in every sense of the word, but I can’t help but wonder if its existence in a growing niche catered to students is indicative of Atlanta’s larger problem. I enjoyed my time at my luxury student apartment, and have nothing against luxury apartments inherently. I do believe, though, that Atlanta has an obligation to do better, and make this a welcoming city for people of all income brackets.