This is an interim report to the Senate by the Housing Policy Committee in regards to the Resolution to Develop a Policy for Allocation of Rental Income adopted by the Senate during the February 1, 2008 plenary. The purpose of the resolution was to elicit the policy of the University in regards to the allocation of rental income to finance capital improvements to the housing stock. As discussed below, the administration has conducted a productive effort to respond to the resolution.Subsequent to the February 1, 2008 plenary, representatives of Facilities have met with members of the HP committee on three separate occasions. In the most recent meeting on April 9, 2008, representatives of Facilities reported their FY2009 budget and a rental increase of 4.3% for FY2009 and 2010, down from the projected %5 before discussions began. The committee examined long term implications of the report. The following conclusions can be made based on information obtained from Facilities during these meetings:
The current financing arrangement is unsustainable over the long term. At present, Facilities’ expenses are financed through rent and through borrowing. Rental increases are targeted to maintain a constant ratio of operating costs to debt and depreciation while the resultant shortfall is subject to borrowing. While this maintains relative stability in rental increases over the short run, debt service, or the re-payment of debt, mounts over the long term. For FY2009, debt service represents approximately 20% of overall Facility expenses. Under the current financing arrangement, that proportion is expected to grow.
That portion of Facilities’ expenses dedicated to long term capital improvements is approximately equivalent to the debts accrued in any given year.
Facilities has acknowledged the need to develop, along with other University stakeholders, a long-term financial strategy to address their operations and maintenance needs.
The specific outlines of the policy review have not been presented to the Housing Policy Committee.
To act in accord with our mandate, the Housing Policy Committee will continue to work with facilities as they conduct their policy review. The committee will continue to raise questions that are central to a thorough examination of current financing strategies. In particular, the committee remains concerned that:
The appropriate allocation of capital expenditures to rents and other revenue sources has not been examined or addressed with the committee.
The tax efficiencies available to the university to set rents have not been fully examined or addressed with the committee.
While facilities has committed to developing long term funding strategies for capital investments, the Committee has not yet been presented with a timeline or action plan that assures continued measured examination of the policy for allocation of rental income.
In the end, our aim is to support a policy that is sustainable over the long term and that maintains the affordability of Columbia University-owned housing for faculty, staff, and post-docs, graduate students, and general studies students. We have appreciated the productive efforts of the administration in this regard and are confident that the administration shares our objectives. Respectfully submitted,Craig Schwalbe (non-ten, Social Work) and
Paige Lampkin (Student Representative, GS), co-chairs