Archive for housing

The Housing Hustle

If finding a place to live in NYC has you feeling like the focus of an Edvard Munch painting, do not panic because I’ve got you covered!

As a SIPA student who didn’t get university housing, renting in NYC was the only option for me. I currently live at 113th and Frederick Douglass Blvd., in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with a roommate. While it is small, the rent is affordable, the neighborhood is great, and I love it!

This post is designed to go over some tips and tricks to navigating the off-campus housing hunt in NYC. Finding an off-campus apartment in NYC truly brings new meaning to the phrase playing it fast and loose, so here are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching:

  1. Timing: In New York is it completely normal to obtain an apartment five days before you need to move in. This sounds stressful, but it is very common for apartments and sublets to be advertised a month or less in advance of the move-in date. If you’re on the hunt for an apartment for the fall I recommend checking out Facebook groups like New York Sublets & Apartments and Gypsy Housing, as well as Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) website (also check out their video here). You can also try hunting on Craigslist, but be wary of scams. Furthermore, you can do it the old-fashioned way by going through a real estate broker to find you a place. I myself used Bohemian Realty because they specialize in the upper west side, but note there are brokers fees associated with it. When you find an apartment you like, I recommend putting your application is as soon as possible because the market moves fast and you don’t want to lose it!
  2. Location: When looking for off-campus housing it’s important to know what neighborhoods you want to live int. Most SIPA students live in Morningside Heights, Harlem and the Upper West Side because they are within walking distance or just a short commute away (the 1, B and C subway lines are close to campus). However, there are plenty of students who live in other NYC neighborhoods like Brooklyn, the Lower East Side, and Queens. I encourage you to explore them if you’re interested because hey, this is NYC, and you can always commute to school.
  3. Roomies: Deciding on if you want to live with roommates is a big decision, however, most SIPA students live with roommates. Having a roommate is a great way to cut costs, and is really common in NYC. So, how do you find roommates then? If you’re searching for a roommate I recommend filing out a profile on the OCHA Find a Roommate. After creating a profile you will be able to search for potential roommates within Columbia, although you will need a UNI to access it. Additionally, most students find their roommates through the incoming class Facebook and Craigslist.
  4. Be Vigilant: Always beware of scams! I recommend reading this article about how to avoid scams. Never give out sensitive information over email unless you can verify the listing. This should go without saying, but always read and review the lease agreement, you want to make sure you are getting a fair deal, and that there is nothing wonky included somewhere in the text. Never pay in cash as most legitimate landlords and brokers will accept a certified check to hold your security deposit and first month’s rent.
  5. Rent: Rents vary here in NYC, and greatly depend on location and the number of roommates you are living with. I recommend a rent range of $900-$1600 a month depending on your financial flexibility. If you want to live close to Midtown the rents will be significantly higher, however, the farther uptown or into Brooklyn you go, the cheaper it tends to get. In New York most landlords require you to demonstrate that you have around 40x the rent before you sign. If you cannot meet these requirements, then the landlord will ask for a guarantor to co-sign the lease with you. If you are an international student I recommend taking a look at the International Students & Scholars Office website (ISSO), which will give you more information on the housing process.
  6. Other Expected Costs: If you use a broker, there will usually be a broker fee attached. This can get pretty pricey, so I recommend being conscious of the broker fees when searching for your apartment. Furthermore, many apartments have an application fee. This varies from place to place, but I’ve seen them anywhere from $25 to $200, so be prepared to cut a check on the spot when you are applying for an apartment.

Okay, I know that may have been information overload, but these are things I wish I had known before doing my first apartment hunt two years ago. While the search can be stressful, do not worry — I promise you will find something! I hope you find this helpful. (Incoming students, keep an eye out for information about SIPA Admission’s Housing Webinar taking place in early July 2019.)

The Seeple’s Guide to University Apartment Housing

Alright, so you’ve got accepted to SIPA and you’re moving to New York in August, but you need a place to live. You’ve probably already been invited to apply for Columbia Housing through the University Apartment Housing portal (UAH) (located in your Welcome Portal), and may or may not have done so. While I personally do not live in university housing, many SIPA students do. I recommend you give it a shot as it’s a reliable and easy way to obtain housing while living in NYC compared to the trials and tribulations of doing an off-campus housing search (future blog post to come). Here are a few things to keep in mind if university housing is for you:

1. Location: Most SIPA students want to live near campus because it makes for an easy commute. UAH has capitalized on this and 90% of its apartment buildings are located around the Morningside campus (yay for walking to school!).  However, there are a few buildings located farther away that the University provides a shuttle to (Check out the Arbor in the Bronx).

2. Take a Chance: Columbia Housing is a lottery, and there is no guarantee that you will get a placement.  I recommend all incoming students that want to apply for university housing because UAH is a trusted landlord, and it’s the path of least resistance when it comes to apartment hunting in NYC.

3. How it Works: When applying I recommend looking at the UAH website here for important deadlines and instructions on the application process.  Incoming students will create an account through the Housing Portal. This requires you to have a Sign-Up Code which you can obtain for the SIPA Housing Liaison. Once you have gained entrance to the Housing portal, you will be asked a series of questions about your living preferences and will complete the housing application. Once you have submitted your housing application, you will be notified over the summer of your housing decision. If you are not selected for housing, I recommend joining the waitlist just in case.  This opens up in early August. If you receive housing I recommend you check out the UAH website for more information on signing the lease and moving in as well as payment options for rent.

4. Costs: UAH gives students a breakdown of average rents for their housing options here on their website. While this is the easiest option for incoming SIPA students to take, it is not always the cheapest option. Additionally, UAH offers both furnished and unfurnished apartments. So, if you find yourself in an unfurnished apartment it is important to factor in the cost of buying furniture.

I hope these tips were helpful in gauging what to expect when applying for UAH. The main take away is that while there is no guarantee you will get university housing, you should still apply because hey, what do you have to lose?

NYC Apartment Hunting Tips

We like to plan early when we can, and this time it turns out that our scheduled Off-Campus Housing webinar was planned directly during a World Cup match. Actually, the webinar was right in the middle of Croatia vs England. We understand. This one’s on us. But to our incoming students, don’t worry – the webinar was recorded, and we’ll send an email out once it’s up on the Welcome Portal.

Because apartment hunting in New York City is its own unique adventure, here are three insider tips for off-campus housing:

  1. If you find an apartment you like, be prepared to commit to it that day. Apartment-hunting is extremely competitive in the summer, so be ready to commit the day of. We know our students like to prepare early, but it’s almost impossible to secure an apartment until about 4-6 weeks before your actual move-in date.
  2. Never pay cash to secure an apartment. So you’re ready, you’ve got your documents, you’re ready to put down the deposit. Make sure you leave a paper trail! Most reputable brokers and landlords accept a certified check, and in rarer cases a credit card. Just make sure they issue you a receipt.
  3. Connecting with possible Columbia roommates. There are many, many resources for Columbia students and NYC folks in general looking for housing and roommates. A 5-year Columbia student lists a couple of Facebook groups to check out in this post, while a Texas transplant lists some more resources here. And don’t forget, Columbia also has its Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) website here.

A reminder to those who want to learn more about policy school (and are ready for that NYC apartment hunt) — we’ll be at Summerfest NYC and Summerfest D.C. on July 18th and 19th. These are free mini-graduate school fairs held with four other top policy schools. Come by, say hello, and get all the info you might need from our alumni and admissions staff.

A Texas Transplant’s Take on the NYC Housing Market

Let’s be real folks, finding housing in New York can be really stressful, especially if you are not from the area. As a transplant from Texas the housing market was a completely foreign and new experience for me and honestly I could have benefited from a blog like this.

This blog will cover the 4 things you need to know on finding off-campus housing. There is no science to the method of madness except for just madness….but when you do secure your housing and sign that lease it is one of the most amazing feelings you will ever have.

  1. Timing
    Traditionally, most people do not start looking for apartments in NYC until two weeks before they are supposed to move. Yes, I said two weeks. If you are like me, that short time span may freak you out, but it is just how the housing market works here. If you are looking for housing around Columbia University there is actually a good window of time to find housing. The best time to find empty apartments around Columbia is when everyone is leaving their leases…right around end of July and beginning of August. There are a lot of apartments and room vacancies in this time frame.
  2. Options and Finding Roommates
    There are many options to finding housing in NYC. What I am listing is a short list of what is all out there but there are many, many more. Columbia OCHA is Columbia’s Off-Campus Housing Assistance site. This site is actually great and credible for finding empty apartments, as well as apartments looking for subleasers. Another NYC option that locals use is Gypsy Housing. This is a Facebook page that you can Like and people and brokers will post apartments and vacancies. I know a few friends at SIPA who found an apartment through Gypsy housing. Lastly, SIPA has a form for other Seeples to find roommates and rooms. The form is really helpful for finding groups of people to live with.
  3. Unaccounted-For Costs
    Something else to keep in mind as you are shopping for apartments is unaccounted-for costs. For starters, most people find apartments through brokers. It is common for brokers to have a fee which is a certain percentage of the annual lease. This is essentially a variable cost since it varies from lease to lease. The broker fee is something you would pay upfront when signing the lease. Another upfront cost maybe a security deposit of the first and last month rent, which is something you may pay when signing the lease. There may also be a lease application fee that can sometimes range from $100-250 per person, this varies on the landlord and agency. When you consider off-campus housing, lease agreements may also request that future tenants make 40x – 90x the annual rent or have a co-signer that meets this requirement. You should not be alarmed by this, it’s pretty common in NYC. Lastly, know that tenants in NYC do not have to pay water as a utility bill. Standard utility bill is normally electricity, which includes heating in most cases, and then internet and other leisure utilities you and your roommates decides to add.
  4. Securing the bag!
    Once you have secured your lease, you have done 85% of the work and relieved a lot of moving anxiety!! You can now start to fill your space with furniture and feel good homey things. If you want to cut costs on buying brand new furniture, there is a Columbia Facebook page called Free and For Sale for Columbia students and you can find things at a fraction of the cost or sometimes for free.

Note from Admissions: Incoming students, want more off-campus housing advice? Register for our Off Campus Housing Webinar on July 11 through the Welcome Portal!

A 5-Year Columbia Student’s Take on On-Campus Housing

Columbia’s location in Morningside Heights has, inevitably, shaped the neighborhood and its development. Over the recent years, the University has acquired a number of apartment buildings in the Morningside Heights vicinity, as well as in Harlem and the Manhattan Valley. In 2008, Columbia even acquired the Arbor, an admittedly nice apartment complex located in Riverdale. In the Bronx. (Don’t worry. Columbia offers a shuttle between the Arbor and both the Medical Center and Morningside Heights Campi. Pick your poison). Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons of pursuing University Apartment Housing (UAH).

Pros:

It’s lowkey your best bet to stay close to campus. As noted before, Columbia has acquired, and continues to acquire, many apartment buildings in the Morningside Heights neighborhood. From my experience, SIPA students who pursue UAH are placed within a ten-minute walk to the International Affairs Building (IAB). In fact, SIPA students who live on 118th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Morningside Drive live right across IAB. Geographically speaking, students may be placed within the rectilinear domain bounded by 106th Street, Riverside Drive, 120th Street, and Frederick Douglass Boulevard/Central Park West.

Path of least resistance. Perhaps the least work-intensive housing search can be found with UAH. If approved for UAH housing, students indicate their preferred price point, fill out a personality questionnaire, supply additional documentation, if needed, and done! Students are notified once they are placed, and the contact information of their potential roommate/suitemate is passed along. Upon arrival to campus, residents pay a visit to the UAH office (near the corner of 119th and Morningside) to sign a lease, and off they go!

‘Tis the season for sublets. School’s out for summer. But you’re not! UAH leases last for the entire duration of your student status. That means the apartment remains yours for the summer. If you’re interning or working in New York, you’re free to remain in your apartment. However, if your research sends you to Rome, or your internship places you in Iqaluit, you have the ability to sublet your apartment. The transient nature of the neighborhood means that someone would be more than happy to sublet your space. You’re also allowed to charge your subletter a premium, a rate higher than your rent, within reason. UAH has rules for that, but that discussion is best left for if you survive your first year a later time.

Cons:

UAH is not guaranteed. There is no way for the University to provide housing to its close to 20,000 postgraduates. That said, the various schools are allocated housing spaces; in turn, each school has its own process to determine which students received UAH. At SIPA, the Office of Student Affairs facilitates the UAH process, approving students throughout the summer. A number of factors can determine UAH eligibility including geographic distance away from New York, ability for a student to produce a credit report or credit history, among other things. If you pursue UAH, be sure to pursue other housing options until you receive an offer from UAH.

UAH is (relatively) expensive. Going with UAH means paying for convenience. To quantify it, UAH offerings price between $850 to $1,500 per month, ($2,300 for couples/family spaces). Depending on the placement and contract, this price may or may not include utilities. The premium you pay relieves the stress of finding a place, using a broker, etc. That said, it is possible to find cheaper housing, with rooms in Morningside Heights going as low as $700, even $600. If you don’t mind venturing two or three stops north on the 1 line, you’ll surely get more for your money.

Pro-tips:

Make friends with a Columbia person who knows what’s up. They’ll be able to let you into various Facebook groups for housing (some pending activation of your UNI and email).

Use OCHA! The Off-Campus Housing Assistance site can be a happy medium between an expensive UAH while still staying within the Columbia community. OCHA compiles a list of spaces posted by Columbia affiliates. Check them out!

Bits of advice:

Morningside Drive and Morningside Avenue are two different streets! Morningside Drive is the western border of Morningside Park, closer to campus. Morningside Avenue is the Park’s eastern border.

Live where you want. Wanna live right next to school? That’s cool. All about the Chelsea life? That’s cool too. As bad gal Riri once said, “Ain’t got not time for no haters, just live your life.”

Don’t mind a 30-40 min. bus ride? Check out Astoria in Queens. Great food, affordable places, and it’s an easy trip straight to the campus gates with the M60 Select Bus Service.

Note from Admissions: To our incoming students, don’t forget to register for the Housing Webinar tomorrow through the Welcome Portal!

"The most global public policy school, where an international community of students and faculty address world challenges."

—Merit E. Janow, Dean, SIPA, Professor of Practice, International and Economic Law and International Affairs

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