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So You’re Looking for a Home in the U-District?

Ah spring quarter — cue the incessant UW housing Facebook group notifications of students rotating bedrooms and taking over each other’s legal agreements. Every year around this time people all across the U-district are desperately searching for ways out of their less-than-ideal basement units, an escape from their incompatible roommates and a lease with utilities included that maybe doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. It’s a stressful time for anyone who is looking to move, but thanks to the pandemic that obliterated this year and last year’s freshman classes’ hope for a normal first year, many UW newbies are urgently looking for roommates and going in blind as first-time U-district renters. 

The process can be tricky and I am certainly no expert. But as someone who has lived off-campus for the past two years and just completed her second U-district house hunt, I thought I’d share a few thoughts and tips in the hopes of making someone’s search for a home just a little less excruciating:


  1. Do not jump at the first thing you see – It can be tempting (especially after living in the dorms) to want to snatch the first house or apartment that’s available to you. The mere fact that the place has a kitchen and a bedroom wider than six feet can be enough to make a recent dorm-dweller believe it’s the home of their dreams. While these certainly aren’t housing characteristics to scoff at, landlords and housing companies look for new and desperate renters to take advantage of who are willing to sign a lease without a second thought. Don’t be this renter. Even though pickings can feel slim in this area, it’s important to take a moment to consider all of your options.
  2. Communicate with your soon-to-be roommates – What do you see the next school year looking like for you? Are you thinking of studying abroad? Are you considering joining Greek life? These are all questions that might be valuable to ask someone before you sign a lease with them so that everyone has a solid understanding of what the upcoming year could look like. Not everyone feels comfortable having a subletter or living with a person that they don’t know very well — discuss these details prior to signing your lease or even before you start searching for your home. Communication will save everyone a lot of time and agony. 
  3. Determine the level of safety that you’re comfortable with – Did that cute and only semi-obnoxious Foster frat boy that you met last night just text you? Nope, it’s just another UW Campus Safety alert telling you about the man with a machete who just assaulted someone on 45th and Roosevelt. When you are looking for a home in the U-district, it is essential that you consider the neighborhoods that you are okay and not okay consistently walking through. While you should always carry your pepper spray and call your mom on your way home from campus at night, some areas are definitely sketchier than others. Pay close attention to the abandoned buildings and dark alleys that you might be surrounded by, and evaluate your priorities. 
  4. Take advantage of all the different housing sites – Most people gravitate toward Zillow to search for a property, but checking out Craigslist, Dawghouses on The Daily and just chatting with other students who might also be moving can also be helpful. Oftentimes upperclassmen or graduating seniors are finishing up their U-district lease and headed toward bigger and brighter things — they can be great resources for finding your new place. Don’t be afraid to reach out to friends to see if they know of any open rooms or units in their area. 


The reality is that finding a place to live and renting for the first time is going to be a trial and error process. You may end up in a place where the decaying house next door sometimes catches fire in the middle of the night, or where you have to walk through a crowd of people smoking crack just to get to your front door. A year later, you may find the easiest and coziest place with the best roommates and a kind landlord. So to all of the huskies out there on the move — best of luck! 

Riis Williams

Washington '22

Riis is a third year undergraduate student in the School of Public Health at the University of Washington. Her passions lie in the promotion of environmental sustainability, health equity and climate change awareness through engaging and uncomplicated journalism. When she's not writing, Riis loves to hike, do ballet and play the piano.
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