ANNUAL REPORT OF THE SENATE HOUSING POLICY COMMITTEE
1. The reason why this report is late once again is primarily the delay in the overall university budget process. The Deputy Vice-President for IRE was unable to provide us with enough figures for a full discussion of this issue until shortly before the academic year’s last meeting of the Senate.
2. The Committee
has been less concerned this year with the supply of apartments on
3. The Committee’s most instructive experience this year was probably a meeting in January attended by Senior Executive VP Robert Kasdin, who gave a wide-ranging description of his views on university housing issues. He observed that some 80% of newly hired faculty receive university housing, and suggested that one way to relieve this pressure was to introduce a new mortgage program [which more and more other schools are doing]. He remarked that the housing stock in most need of renovation was graduate student housing. He declined to suggest any special measures to alleviate IRE’s renovation problem. Finally, he declared himself open to continuing discussions with the Committee, and we strongly suggest that next year’s Committee take him up on this in fall 2005.
4. At a later meeting of the Committee there was a detailed discussion of possible mortgage-assistance programs. Michael Johannes and William Scott expressed the hope that it would be possible to find out more about what various kinds of faculty actually wanted, and it is to be hoped that the Committee will look further into this matter in fall 2005, and that it will work with Robert Kasdin to produce a plan that will add to Columbia’s attractiveness.
5. The Committee did not receive a significant quantity of complaints from IRE tenants this year – which may simply reflect the Committee’s low visibility.
6. A major component in the financial problems that beset the university’s housing stock continues to be the problem of deferred maintenance, which the Committee discussed at meeting after meeting all year. The tenants naturally feel that the inevitable deficiencies of one-hundred-year-old buildings, compounded in some cases by decades of neglect, should not be solved at the expense of the current renters – and many members of the Committee agree with them. Two numbers sum up the problem (though they both require some commentary if they are to be fully understood): William Scott estimates IRE’s housing stock has a deferred maintenance backlog of $400M; the capital budget for next year is $35.2M.
7. In FY 05 IRE imposed a 3.9% average increase in rents for faculty, 3.75% for students. In FY 06, IRE projects that the increases will average 5% in both categories. Behind this lies a projected increase in IRE core operating expenses of 6.28%. The major items that show high percentage increases are fuel oil (28.45%) and administration (12.75%); the Committee expressed some concern over the latter figure, which Mr. Scott attributed in part to the fact that in FY 05 a number of staff positions were for a time vacant – nonetheless it is disturbing that the figure budgeted for administration in FY 06 exceeds by 15.34% the amount actually spent in FY 04. However, the additional staff are meant to produce an increase in revenue.
8. There was no
doubt expressed in the Committee that the Deputy Vice-President for IRE has
continued to do his best to hold down costs. A crucial item outside the control
of IRE or of market forces is interest on internal
9. An interesting suggestion by Michael Johannes will deserve further exploration next year: why not make some relatively luxurious housing available to relatively well-heeled students in professional schools and elsewhere, and charge them premium rents to help subsidize the rest?
W.V. Harris, Committee Chair
Marc van de Mieroop