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UW residents consider HFS’ strategic master plan

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Freshman Elizabeth Gawne, an RHSA representative, starts the meeting by taking suggestions for improvement of the food served at Eleven 01 Cafe.

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RHSA members and floor representatives vote on the room-and-board increases for next year during Monday’s TLHC meeting. The increase was passed.

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Come to the meeting!

Next fall, the yearly housing rates for UW students could increase by as much as $444.

That is what the Resident Hall Student Association’s (RHSA) General Council will help decide today, when each hall’s representative reports the results of a vote held Monday at their respective council meetings.

RHSA President Alex Cutler anticipates that the 6 percent rate increase will be approved.

“This is a pretty fair increase,” Cutler said. “Usually, in years in which there’s a policy change attached to the increase, we have some opposition, but I’m not aware of any right now.”

Last year’s rate increase was 5 percent, 1 percent less than the expected increase next fall.

The average UW residence hall room rate is $800 below the median of peer universities. For example, UW doubles rates are just under $4,000 per year, whereas comparable rooms at UCLA and UC Berkeley are both more than $7,000 per year.

One-third of the proposed increase would finance the UW Department of Housing and Food Services’ $750 million Housing Master Plan, which calls for the renovation of all existing residence halls as well as construction of two new apartment complexes and three new residence halls along Northeast Campus Parkway.

Construction would occur in two phases, beginning in 2009. The first phase would entail the construction of brand new apartments and residence halls, including an addition to Stevens Court. During the second phase, all existing residence halls will be extensively renovated.

“Once the new buildings are constructed, the existing buildings will be shut down one by one and completely gutted,” Cutler said, pointing out that most of the transitions would take place during summer quarters.

Mercer Hall, located on Northeast Pacific Street at the northwest corner of Portage Bay, is expected to be entirely demolished in 2011.

In addition to renovating 4,557 existing beds, HFS’ plan would add more than 3,000 beds to the system, an increase of nearly 50 percent over the current total.

These first two phases are expected to be completed by autumn 2014, with the possibility of a third phase, dependent upon the UW’s growth.

Residents were given less than two weeks to consider the proposed rate increase, from the time an e-mail with the new rate breakdowns was sent Jan. 25 until the Hall Council voted Feb. 4.

“It seems like people were just raising their hands [in approval] because everybody else was,” freshman Alex Park said. “I don’t think a lot of people really understand the proposal fully.”

Park was one of three residents at the Terry-Lander Hall Council meeting on Monday who voted against the rate increase. Twelve others voted for it, with one abstaining altogether.

Throughout the course of the 15-year plan, there will be an annual rate increase of 2 percent for all new and renovated residence halls.

Additionally, there will be a one-time rate increase of 20 percent on renovated buildings during the first year it is reopened. Thereafter, they will still be subject to the 2 percent annual increase.

Some question why the $750 million project is not receiving any help from the state or the University.

“This is actually changing the face of the campus,” said one HFS employee, who asked to remain anonymous. “Why should just the next few generations of residents be required to pay for it?”

If the RHSA General Council approves the proposal, then it will be moved on to the UW Board of Regents. That presentation is expected to take place March 20.

[Reach reporter Christian Nelson at news@thedaily.washington.edu.]

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