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22 November 2005

Local real estate boom negatively impacts most new faculty

An issue that usually comes to mind when one thinks about the University of Miami is money. This is a concern not only for prospective and current students but also for new faculty members who move to the area.

Many experience sticker shock, according to Thomas LeBlanc, the University’s new provost, who also moved to Miami over the summer.

“Housing in South Florida is much more expensive than upstate New York,” said LeBlanc, who came from Rochester, N.Y. “We’re very aware of the situation. We need to look for the best combination of solutions that works for this institution.”

Some of the solutions being considered include subsidized mortgages, co-ownership and financing options. The latter is currently one of the ways the University assists new faculty members.

In addition, the University plans to offer two housing options in the future: the luxury Smather’s Four Fillies Farm community as well as town houses near the University Village.

“Sixteen town houses are being built adjacent to the University Village for next year,” LeBlanc said. “We need to make sure our faculty can live within a reasonable distance of the University.”

For now, both plans appear to be out of reach for new faculty members coming directly out of graduate school, such as English professor Kara Jacobi.

“I came to Miami a couple months before I was going to move here to look for an apartment,” Jacobi said. “It was really hard to find something that was affordable but not really old or outdated and had everything that I wanted in it.”

“[Price] wasn’t the most important thing, but I figured I was going to be spending enough time at home that I wanted to have somewhere good to live. It was really frustrating to keep looking at places and not find anything right away that was affordable and decent.”

Even faculty members who have lived in the area longer face similar difficulties in finding the right type of home and location.

“I moved to Miami in August of 2003, but I was living in Aventura because I taught at Barry University,” Terry Adams, an assistant professor in the School of Communication, said. “I couldn’t afford to buy anything, so I’m renting in Coconut Grove.

“I think it’s definitely a consideration for incoming professors,” Adams said, adding that anybody coming out of gradiate school has the same kind of student loans as undergraduates. “They’re already under a financial burden from that.”

Adams also said that the problem is worse for people with families who want to buy a house.

“They want a yard for their kids and that’s a big part of weighing whether to go to this school or another school to work,” Adams said. “[You think], ‘What will my lifestyle be like if I move to Miami?’”

Martin Nesvig, an assistant professor in the history department, agreed about the affects of high prices for various types of homes.

“That’s really the major obstacle for faculty,” he said. “Overall [price] wasn’t a deterrent for me, but for others it might be. It’s an issue, but it hasn’t become so bad.

“Miami is definitely not cheap,” he said. “[But] it’s cheaper than Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle or Washington D.C.”

Nesvig said he used a realtor recommended by members of the history department and he was able to purchase a condo on the beach. The University has also offered assistance.

“As faculty and staff are being recruited from other locations, we are generous in providing ample time to look for housing,” Jerry Lewis, vice president for communications, said. “We try to give them as much time to look around to see what they want.”

Greg Linch can be contacted at g.linch@umiami.edu.