The Diamondback and the College Park housing dilemma

As you may or may not know, I was recently quoted in the student newspaper of University of Maryland, The Diamondback, as shown above. I recommend you read Samantha Subin’s interesting article as it shows I am not the only one with concerns about the lack of affordable housing in the College Park area while luxury housing that no one can afford is built instead! Some on Twitter have scowled at the article, calling it “extremely misleading” or acting like they are unpaid boosters for The Varsity/University View, claiming there is magical “affordable housing,” it’s just that you “have to look.”

As it usually goes in journalism, Ms. Subin only took one of my quotes from what I had sent her through Twitter DMs, but it was still powerful:

Burkely Hermann, a 25-year-old College Park resident, said housing in the area shouldn’t exceed $1,500 a month.“Places like Alloy should stop treating students as literal cash cows,” Hermann said. “They are clearly not full of money, but are heavily in debt.”

As you probably know from reading this blog, I said a LOT MORE than this. As such, this article reprints what I sent her, while protecting my own privacy.

The conversation with Ms. Subin was prefaced by her tweet on February 7th asking “A new apartment complex is opening in College Park this spring. If you live in the area or attend UMD, The Diamondback wants to hear your thoughts! DM me” to which I replied “You mean the really expensive one near U Club? Or is there another one?”

From there, the DM’ing was on. She first asked about my thoughts on the Alloy by Alta apartment complex in Berwyn, to which I responded

Sure. I have thoughts about it. My thoughts are that it is too expensive for the students that go to UMD and that there should be more affordable housing. I also think the OCH database should prohibit rental prices above $1500 a month, at minimum, if not lower (maybe as low as $1000). Places like the Alloy should stop treating students as literal cash cows as they are clearly not full of money but are heavily in debt as shown by the ever-expanding student loan debt. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask them.

So, the part of Subin’s article when she took the quote about tweeting students as “literal cash cows” is from the beginning of the conversation, but I didn’t exactly say that “housing in the area shouldn’t exceed $1,500 a month” but rather that $1500 should be the utmost limit for entries on the OCH (Off-Campus Housing) Database, with the lowest limit being $1000. I say that because I remember seeing some apartments on there which were over $2,000 a month. Current searching on the OCH database you find 10 entries charging over $4,000 a month, 24 entries charging $3,000-$3,999 a month, 35 entries charging $2,000-$2,999 a month, and 34 entries charging $1500-1999 a month, if charged per unit.

Subin followed up by asking for one if there were any benefits of Alloy by Alta for the graduate community, clarifying if I was a College Park resident. I responded by telling her that while in theory it “will provide residency for college park residents, in reality it will be too expensive for people to afford” and clarifying I am a resident, while also adding that:

…while casually observing the construction of this apartment for months as walking by it, there is no doubt in my mind that the Spanish-speaking workers building it would not be able to afford living there. As such Alloy by Alta is not only an insult to UMD students but also an insult to the working class that worked on building the structure (and grounds around it) as well.

I would have been nice to have at least part of this in the article, but perhaps it was too far along at that point. I also told Ms. Subin, after she asked how long I lived in the College Park area, that I had lived there since August 2018, since “last fall was first semester as a grad student” and…that was the last I heard from her.

I thought it would just be best to put all this out there, as I don’t mind speaking out on issues like this. While this post is not the same as other posts on here, I think it deserves a space as well.