Investigative Report: Could Villanova offer four years of housing?

Laura Welch

Those looking for off-campus housing know that, at times, it can be a burden. Incoming seniors have to go through numerous steps they never had to worry about while living on-campus. These steps include researching current property listings, visiting several potential locations, becoming aware of zoning ordinances and determining a budget, all before moving in. During the arduous process of finding a place to live off campus, many will ask themselves, why can’t I just live on campus for one more year?

The answer to this question is quite straightforward: there simply are not enough beds to go around. Villanova has enough housing to accommodate about 4,400 students. This provides enough beds for freshmen, sophomores and juniors who are accepted as resident students and therefore guaranteed three years of housing. Villanova would need about 1,500 more beds than are presently available in order to provide housing for seniors.

Currently, only a small number of seniors live on campus. The number of students able to live on campus during their senior year is very limited and reserved for those who are the recipients of particular scholarships or those with a certain admission status. Therefore, the vast majority of seniors have no choice but to venture into the outside world.

Tom DeMarco, director of the Office for Residence Life, said there was a possibility that Villanova University could eventually expand enough to offer or guarantee seniors on-campus housing, “But we would need to increase the number of residence halls.”

Although the Office for Residence Life says the potential to eventually expand the number of residence halls is there, it most likely will not occur in the next several years.

“Purchasing land next to campus to expand our campus for additional building is not very likely,” said Kathy Byrnes, who works with the vice president of Student Life. “So, the question is where we would build senior housing or any additional housing.”

Byrnes frequently meets with students to assist in the legal process of moving off campus.

The University is unlikely to purchase additional land because it is a land-locked campus, meaning there are distinct borders around the 254-acre campus, which is surrounded by already developed property.

If Villanova cannot purchase more land, building more housing becomes much more complicated; there is not much open space left. However, there are several measures that could be taken in order to eventually increase housing.

Byrnes laid out one of these options: “There is discussion about building an additional residence hall or halls on the land between Moriarty Hall and the Technical Services building on Lancaster Avenue.”

Byrnes explained that two things would have to happen before the plan could go into action. First, several smaller buildings between Moriarty Hall and the Technical Services building that are currently used by various offices would be removed. Secondly, the project would need zoning approval from the township, which is sometimes a difficult task.

“This plan will very likely be pursued once the Nursing School and Law School building projects are well underway,” Byrnes said.

Once these buildings are completed, housing will automatically be offered to seniors. The new housing will be used for the first two or three years while the older residence halls, such as Sheehan and Sullivan, are renovated. As a result, the University will not gain additional beds until several years after the new buildings open. The new buildings will not necessarily be used to provide on-campus housing to fourth-year students. Instead, the new facilities might decrease the number of triples or replace other residence halls, such as St. Rita’s.

Those dreading the search for a place to live off campus are still left wondering how their pain will be eased. At this time, there are two options. In the first, the University could lease or purchase an area of housing property to create a residential community of students coexisting together. While seniors would not be on campus, this option provides an alternative to the current system.

“The University is always looking for off-campus sites where we might be able to provide seniors with housing,” Byrnes said. “In this area not many opportunities have presented themselves.  Cost is always a factor as well.”

The second option that would give seniors on-campus housing would involve constructing new buildings on the parking lot property on Lancaster Avenue. However, this plan would require more construction to replace general parking with underground parking garages, which would be an expensive project.

“In theory, all of these options are possible,” Byrnes said.

Even without immediate plans to provide housing for seniors, the University still does its best to assist in finding off-campus housing by providing an online listing of available locations. These properties are listed at the request of the landlord and are updated weekly. The University also publishes “Crossroads,” a guide for students living off campus.