Married Housing: Fake Invitations, Maternity Leave, and Lots of Ambiguity
For its current married students and alumni, Yeshiva University offers a limited number of apartments in Washington Heights. There are about 75 apartments available on Laurel Hill Terrace for married couples that have graduated or are currently studying at YU, according to Matt Yaniv, the Director of Marketing and Communications of the Yeshiva University Office of Communications and Public Affairs (CPA).
“Interested students and alumni must properly complete the application process before they are added to the waiting list,” explained Yaniv. “Undergraduate students are given priority based on a variety of factors, including their date of application, wedding date, and specific unit requested.”
Married housing is open to YU undergraduates and students in any YU graduate school, explained Dean of Students Dr. Chaim Nissel. Further, only one spouse has to be a YU student or graduate for the couple to be eligible for married housing.
According to students who live in married housing at YU, the apartments offered are usually one-bedroom, not recently renovated, and cheaper than apartments of that size in Washington Heights. The apartments also vary in price and can range anywhere from $900 to $1,200 a month, according to the students.
According Rita Greenberg, a real-estate broker in Washington Heights, the market rate of most one-bedroom apartments in the area is between $1,500-$1,700 or more a month.
Despite the low prices that characterize those apartments offered through YU married housing, Nissel and Yaniv affirm that YU believes that these apartments are offered at the regular market rate.
For many students, the process for being considered for YU married housing is ambiguous. In fact, there is no indication on the YU website that this option exists at all.
“It’s really sketchy,” said a student at Stern College who is currently on the waiting list for married housing and wishes to remain anonymous. “You Google it and absolutely nothing comes up. You have to have an in with someone who is in married housing to give you the contact information.”
The contact, in this case, is Marcy Reiz, the person who speaks to students about being considered for married housing and runs the list of all the students who have applied. Ms. Reiz is currently on maternity leave.
According to people who have gone through, and are currently going through, the process, getting on the list is not simple. After filling out the preliminary application, candidates must send in a wedding invitation and a letter from the rabbi who is officiating the wedding confirming that the date of the wedding is true in order for the application be processed.
“You have no idea where on the list you are. They don’t tell you,” said the previously mentioned student. “You could be last on the list and have no idea and you’re definitely not getting housing or you could be first on the list and they are not going to be tell you so you basically have to have like 12 other backup options.”
In addition, the student added, “Once you’re in housing, you’re in for life…You could theoretically stay in your 1-bedroom, rent controlled, $900 a month apartment for the rest of your life.” CPA declined to confirm or deny this fact.
Another student in Yeshiva College, who also wishes to remain anonymous, expressed a similar sentiment regarding the ambiguity of the process for YU housing. “In terms of how the process works from my understanding, so I think this is a general assessment, which is I have absolutely no idea,” he said. “Once you are on the list, you have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”
For students looking for housing now, the procedure is especially difficult. Since Reiz is on maternity leave, applicants must contact other people and be persistent to get their foot in the door and move the process along.
“My impression is that it’s a one-person department but that one person is on maternity leave, so things are a little complicated at the moment,” explained a recently engaged YC student.
Students also noted that producing a wedding invitation is often an impossible task for many students to complete, especially if the wedding is more than 6 months away.
“We got on the list the day after we got engaged. We had to make a fake invitation to get on the list,” related another married student in Stern College. “We got married on a Sunday and we got the email about our apartment on Thursday before our wedding.”
The low prices of the apartments are a major draw to current students and recent graduates who might prefer a cheaper alternative to regular rent for an apartment in NYC.
“People want it since it’s...so much cheaper than normal rent,” said Yael Bernstein, a married student at Stern College who currently lives in married housing. Bernstein explained that although the apartments are not “luxurious,” they are nice and convenient for young couples looking for a cheaper place to live.
“My building is almost all Jews, which is really nice. It’s a nice experience of having neighbors who are mostly all Jewish,” said Bernstein. “It’s gives a nice community feel to…be able to be living with everyone you know, kind of in the same boat.”
Some students question why marriage is the key to obtaining a cheaper apartment through YU. "Why do you have to be married to be eligible for a cheaper housing option?” questioned Eli Weiss, a junior in the Sy Syms School of Business who currently lives in an apartment in Washington Heights. “Cheap housing is something all students need and want."
To its unmarried population, YU strongly recommends that its students remain in the dorms. When asked why YU strives to create a community for its students and alumni while simultaneously pressuring students to live in the dorms, Nissel responded, “Our strong preference is that undergraduates reside in university housing, which provides a higher level of security, greater participation in on-campus activities, and ultimately greater student success.” “Our research shows that undergraduates who reside in YU housing have higher GPAs.”