As University of Wisconsin students studying abroad in the spring book their flights and pack their bags, many are starting to fear they will have to carry some other additional baggage — finding someone to sublet their apartments.
One of the many students finding trouble with the newfound problem is Phi Mu president Asyhlee Sopala, who needs someone to replace her spot before she flies off to Copenhagen next spring.
“I just don’t get it,” Sopala said. “I mean, my roommates and I listed our gorg apartment at the James for a discounted price — only 1,600 a month! Per person! It’s like, do people not get there’s a pool and they can just have their parents pay it?!”
Sopala, like others across campus, is still trying to find someone to sublet her reasonably priced apartment for a single semester. Every day, more apartments with luxurious overlooks, vaulted ceilings and private jacuzzis are listed on Facebook Marketplace, but the comment sections remain empty.
Many Parisian-hopefuls and Venice-bound students say the subletting market has been extra harsh and unforgiving this year. One potential explanation is that a lot more people are trying to study abroad in the spring after COVID-19 halted programs across the globe last academic year.
But local economists and students on budgets contend the real problem is an over-saturation of the subletting market due to the climbing quantity of high-priced units. As famous economist James Smith is quoted as saying “Haha supply and demand or some shit, lol I don’t actually know how to do real math.”
Supply is certainly exceeding demand — much to the chagrin of students like Sopala.
Sopala loses hope each day that someone will snatch up her sweet pad — of course, after they pass a rigorous written and oral exam to prove that the new roomie will click instantaneously with her “besties.”
“My roommates are so fun and easy to live with!” Sopala said while eagerly smiling and vigorously shaking her head.
“I’ve always had a dream to study abroad, no sudden need to get away or whatever … I am heartbroken to leave my girls!” she said, bursting into seemingly nervous laughter.
Some students have gotten so desperate, they have taken to dating apps to swipe for subletters. But Sopala said she has found this method to be unsuccessful.
“It’s honestly mostly just weird guys who work at Epic that respond to the ads, which obviously leads to nowhere,” Sopala said with a sigh.
As stressful as the lack of subletters has been for tenants yearning to study across the pond, the effects of the dearth of affordable sublet housing have been felt across the city.
UW urban planning expert Amar Reddy said the amount of high-priced apartments available to sublet in the Downtown campus area is “astonishing” but also “stupid.”
“I always knew we had students here whose parents had deep pockets, but the living expenses in that area are truly unsustainable for most of the UW population — especially in a sublet situation,” Reddy explained. “And what 20-something honestly needs a jacuzzi on their balcony?”
Reddy worries the city is heading toward a second housing crisis — a social crisis rather than an economic one.
Given there is already a lack of houses on the market on the outskirts of the city, startup families are going to be driven inward, he explained. Though mixing young families with young college students in the same complexes may be the only feasible option to meet the housing demand, Reddy worries about the social and safety implications.
“I’ve seen what students do in those apartments,” Reddy said. “So if you’re heading that way, all I have to say is good luck.”
Sopala says no matter what happens with subletting her apartment, she is going to realize her dream of studying in Copenhagen this spring.
“I’m going to make it there, no matter the cost!” Sopala said defiantly. “And I’m sure my dad won’t mind, either.”