Ole Miss to tear down 320-unit apartment

Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2006

The University of Mississippi’s family housing apartment complex will close at the end of this academic year — a move that may leave some students with families scrambling for another place to live.

“We’ve all been thinking, what are we going to do? What can you do,” said Tanaka Roberts, 31, a single mother and student at the university who lives in the Village, a 320-unit campus apartment complex designed for family living.

Lorinda Krhut, the university’s director of student housing, said the standard of living in the Village is not up to par.

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Krhut said the apartment complex will be torn down next summer to make way for a law school building. There will be no more so-called family housing at the university.

Local housing directors say family housing, built mostly in the 1950s and 1960s, is slowly disappearing.

At the University of Southern Mississippi, officials demolished 128 units at the Pine Haven apartments last year to make way for sorority housing, leaving the university with 170 family living apartments.

Other universities around the state say they have no plans to get rid of their family housing for now.

“Because there is so much competition off campus, it is not really a priority for universities the way it once was,” said Ann Bailey, housing director at Mississippi State University.

She said the university’s Aiken Village, with 266 units, is in good shape, and there are no plans to get rid of it.

However, she and other housing directors agree, family housing might go away completely one day.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, but there’s really no other alternative,” UM’s Krhut said.

She said to renovate the apartments would cost so much, the university would end up charging as much to live there as students would pay in an off-campus apartment.

Now, they’re paying about $6,000 a year, or $500 a month, for two-bedroom apartments including summers and utilities. A typical two-bedroom apartment in Oxford runs about $600 a month, not including utilities.

“In Oxford, the cost of living is very high, and it’s really hard to make ends meet,” said Aaron Graves, a student set to graduate in December 2007.

Graves, 29, his wife, Elizabeth, and their 2-year-old daughter, Anna, live in a two-bedroom unit at the Village.

“Living there makes it a lot easier,” he said.

Graves said while the apartment isn’t a luxury unit, it is not dilapidated or beyond repair. “There is absolutely nothing wrong with it,” he said.

Graves and the rest of the occupants — the Village is only about half full — were notified by e-mail in February of next spring’s closing. He has begun a petition to help keep the apartments open but admits the effort is probably futile.

“We’ll probably be looking for a place to live,” he said.