Last week, the Williamsburg City Council voted against a proposal that would allow students to live in hotels and motels throughout the city. Although council members were initially prepared to vote in favor of the ordinance, testimonies given by apartment owners and leasing agents swayed the members’ opinions. Apparently the city council, owners and agents have all forgotten one very basic business principle: Competition, within reason, is good for business.
By voting down the proposal, the city council is not only hurting the hotel industry in Williamsburg, but it is also hurting students. Contrary to statements made by council member Judy Knudson, the College does not have an abundance of housing options. A student who is not able to secure a dorm must look for an apartment or house, most likely one that will be shared with one or two other students. With the cost of housing steadily increasing and the competition between students also looking for residences, finding a place to call home is a daunting task. This can be particularly stressful for transfers who, if arriving in the spring, only have five weeks to secure housing. Out-of-state transfer students experience more stress, especially when trying to locate housing via the internet without knowing about the neighborhood, location or crime statistics.
Prohibiting students from leasing hotel rooms gives apartment landlords another advantage: Rent can be increased more easily and property maintenance can be overlooked. Now that the landlords do not have to worry about competing with hotels, there will be less incentive to properly care for the apartments and houses they manage.
Instead of fighting competition, property owners and the city council should embrace it.
Allow students to lease hotel rooms per semester. It is silly to require a 12-month lease from a student who may only reside in the apartment or house for a total of eight months out of the year. Incentives should be offered to students who sign a three or four-semester lease. The College, city and hotel owners could agree on a room tax that would go to the city. Hotels are rarely filled to capacity and owners would undoubtedly agree that a room leased to a student, even at a discounted rate, is better than a room that is vacant. It is a shame that no hotel representatives attended the council meeting. Unfortunately, their absence spoke loud and clear to council members.
If landlords were competing with hotels for students, they would be forced to offer more student-friendly options: Shorter lease options, better maintained properties and competitive rental rates are just some of the benefits for both students and landlords.
The College and housing authorities should join together to agree on a plan that would benefit everyone, not just landlords.
When Wendy’s wanted to add a location on Richmond Road near McDonald’s, the city did not hold a meeting to ask the McDonald’s owner whether or not he approved. If given the opportunity, the owner would certainly choose to be the only restaurant in Williamsburg. Hopefully, the next meeting held to discuss housing issues will have landlords, hotel owners, students and College housing authority members in attendance.
E-mail Kristan Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org.