Delay in opening apartment complex strands UGA students

Temporary housing of students in nearby hotels no longer feasible

A new Athens apartment complex promising “the best student living experience possible” was forced to house its tenants in hotels when it failed to open for its first residents in August. Now, those students just learned their hotel stays end this weekend, and their apartments in the William Athens complex are still not ready, due to construction delays.

Parents are scrambling today to find housing for between 300 and 400 students after the William posted this note Thursday:

Due to various circumstances outside of our control, including but not limited to material and labor shortages, the general contractor has been unable to complete construction on The William. To date, The William has been able to provide alternative hotel accommodations, as well as a per diem stipend, for each displaced resident by securing rooms at various nearby hotels in the City of Athens.

However, despite our efforts to continue such hotel accommodations, the hotels can no longer accommodate our residents after September 17, 2022. Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to locate acceptable alternative housing. Under these circumstances, we are offering students two alternatives: First, students can accept the offer for a cash payment to assist with each resident's housing expenses until The William is ready for occupancy. Second, a student can decline the offer and terminate their lease without penalty.

Many parents didn’t learn their kids would be without housing until the students checked their emails Friday. “We all understood that our children would move into their apartments on the 17th of this month,” said Atlanta parent Don Grant. “We have been paying rent since the beginning of August. I still have not received any notice from the William even though I am listed on the lease with my son.”

Grant faulted the timing of the William notice, with many students headed out of town for the UGA football game in South Carolina. With hundreds of families about to frantically search for Airbnb and hotel rooms, Grant predicted a “Hunger Games” contest to hunt down the last few rooms.

“It is an absolute disaster, and clearly the William and its parent leasing company aren’t going to do anything,” said Grant. “They are just throwing up their hands and saying sorry.”

Several calls and emails to the William and its parent company by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were not returned.

Neither option offered by the company is viable, according to Grant and other parents, since finding a new place, especially for roommate groups, is a challenge midsemester in a college town already low on student housing. And moving into temporary housing in a hotel or Airbnb during football season is near impossible.

Social media turned into a lifeline with parents swapping ideas and tips on locating emergency housing on the University of Georgia Parents Facebook page and a recently created William Athens Concerned Parents group. Some parents are discussing renting motor homes for their students or bringing their own RVs to Athens.

UGA is attempting to help even though the William is off-campus, private housing. As of Friday morning, the UGA Housing and Student Care and Outreach departments fielded phone calls and emails from around 30 affected students seeking options, said spokesman Gregory Trevor.

“These students have been offered beds in on-campus spaces. Most of these students have declined those offers, saying they prefer to live off-campus with their existing roommates,” said Trevor. “Student Care and Outreach is tailoring support and assistance for students who are navigating these complex circumstances. We are helping students to communicate with their professors, resolve issues with commuting to campus, and connect with emotional support services, as needed. Emergency financial assistance is also available to students who demonstrate financial need. Student Care and Outreach can work with students on this process as well.”

Trevor said some students told UGA they’ve already been in touch with private off-campus housing providers with available space. Many parents say they are calling other apartment complexes in downtown Athens that cater to students.

UGA is also sharing leads with families. “We have been informed that Landmark Properties in Athens has 70 available spaces. We’re making students aware of this option and would encourage you to share the information with parents,” said Trevor. Student Care and Outreach is available around the clock at 706-542-7774, he said.

UGA may have contributed to the Athens housing crunch, welcoming a record 6,200 freshmen this year. Last year, the freshman class had 5,800 students. In addition, this year’s entering class has more out-of-state students. UGA reports 25% of the enrolling UGA first-year class come from outside Georgia. In 2021, 19% of the freshmen were out-of-state. (UGA requires freshmen live on campus whether they are in-state or out-of-state.)

The larger first-year classes leave fewer dorm rooms available for older students, many of whom choose to enter the tight Athens rental market in their second or third years. Out-of-state students left stranded by the William construction delays don’t have the option to live at home and commute to UGA as do many of their metro Atlanta peers.

“I cannot imagine how the parents feel who are out of state,” said Grant. “If their child isn’t checking email, those parents may not even know yet that their student is being evicted from their hotel room this weekend and has nowhere to live.”