Three miles south of the Pentacrest, past Highway 6, sits a “resort-style” student-housing development called “The Quarters.” The units range in size from one to three bedrooms, and the amenities on site include indoor racquetball and basketball courts, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, and tanning beds. The Tailwind Group — the developer of Quarters — has built similar student housing in Cedar Falls, Rochester, and Mankato.
Tailwind’s marketing for Quarters is an ostentatious display of luxurious amenities, complete with an endorsement by NFL football player Chad Greenway contending, “I can’t think of a single reason why a student wouldn’t want to experience college like this.” But there are four important reasons students should not wish to live in a housing development such as Quarters:
(1) Quarters suggests that students desire expensive and superfluous amenities even though price, location, and safety are usually students’ priorities. Currently, room and board expenses account for 46.3 percent of the cost of attendance at the University of Iowa. Room and board are, on average, more expensive than tuition.
In Iowa City, the cost of housing is especially problematic because the high demand and low supply of housing has given property-management companies enough market power to steadily raise rents to lofty levels, so much so that Johnson County has the highest housing prices in the state. Tailwind continues to provide overly expensive housing while unjustly perpetuating the perception that students desire to live a luxurious lifestyle. This encourages future developers to follow a similar model, which will in turn lead to higher housing costs for students in the long run.
(2) Students are committed to leading sustainable lives for the benefit of the environment and future generations. When practicing sustainability, what we purchase is just as important as what we throw away. Each unit in Quarters, however, has its own washer and dryer, each bedroom has a bathroom, and every bedroom receives a free parking spot. Although convenient for residents, the everybody-gets-one-of-everything approach is not environmentally friendly. It is a textbook example of an unsustainable purchasing plan.
(3) Students must have convenient, sustainable, safe access to campus at late hours. Unfortunately, at night, walking, biking, and riding public transportation to and from Quarters is not feasible because of its distance from campus. Clearly, sustainability and safety were not adequately considered when developing Quarters.
(4) Tailwind brashly uprooted hundreds of low-income black and other minority residents from their homes at Rose Oaks to build Quarters. For most of the dislocated residents, Rose Oaks was the only local housing they could afford. Parents and children were forced into homelessness for their foreseeable futures. Although Tailwind acted within the law, it abused its privilege and, in the name of profit, repeated the American corporate tradition of gentrifying and displacing the homes of blacks and other minorities. As students, we denounce such development.
It is true that some students may be interested in living at Quarters — everyone’s tastes are different. Nevertheless, this overly luxurious, unsustainable, and disruptive development conflicts with the interests and values of many students. We hope this threatening student-housing trend does not continue.
— Jacob Simpson
Jason Simpson is a member of the Housing Affordability Task Force for the University of Iowa Student Government. This column is endorsed by the Housing Affordability Task Force.