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Remote learning hasn’t dented off-campus housing

Falcon News Service

March 31, 2021

Landlords in River Falls say that their properties remain full, despite an increase in remote learning at UW-River Falls amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Although on-campus housing has had a decrease in residents, off-campus housing remains full.

Scott Beske, part owner of Best Key Properties LLC in River Falls, said that all the properties under the company’s management are still rented out by students, despite more students doing online schooling. Beske said, however, that though the properties are still under lease to students, there are many empty rooms from students that moved home but continue to pay rent.

“I know the buildings are emptier, but they still have a lease with us to fulfill,” said Beske.

Beske said that he has not had anyone approach him for rent relief, but he has been more flexible with allowing some tenants to pay later than would otherwise be expected. Looking forward to next fall, Beske said that he is hopeful as all his properties are rented out until September 2022.

Beske also added that the company has implemented a system to keep property managers from any potential COVID-19 exposures while inside of rental properties. Renters will notify Beske and his team if a renter is COVID positive, and have the renter go to a separate location while property managers are in the building.

Nick Wilson, manager of Wilson Properties Group LLC, said that he has not had more vacancies than usual and the company’s properties are filled for next year as well.

Wilson said that he had several renters who got behind on rent.

“The stimulus checks really seemed to help and everyone is caught up now,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that about 10% of his units got behind on rent, which was the highest he has ever experienced.

Wilson had no concerns about potential vacant student rentals due to the pandemic.

“There are a lot of new apartments coming to River Falls,” Wilson said. “Personally that is more concerning to us with how much availability there is going to be.”

A 2018 study by Minnesota-based Maxfield Research & Consulting found that the vacancy rate in the city stood at 1.2% and noted that “the supply of rental housing in River Falls is below the level considered adequate to meet demand.” The city used the data to promote development of new multifamily housing.

Angie Bond, community development assistant for the City of River Falls, said that she will interact with River Falls renters if there is any issue that cannot be resolved between the tenants and landlord.

“The pandemic has certainly created some challenges in providing services to our residents, but each situation is different, and we can utilize other resources to come to an appropriate and safe solution,” Bond added.

Bond said that she is unaware of any surplus of vacancies in student rentals as a result of the pandemic.