By Angelina Lewis

Caroline McHam, now a fourth-year consumer economics student, first came to the University of Georgia without knowing anyone, and the quest for housing was a daunting search.

A friend of a friend led her to her roommate, Maddie Baker, who has since become a best friend. McHam said Baker had many qualities she looked for in a roommate, and since they were both in the honors program, it seemed to be a perfect match. After their first year living in the Myers honors program dorm on-campus, the two decided to move to an off-campus apartment.

But information on affordable housing options is often not readily available and requires legwork to discover options.

“The best thing to do is talk to the people you want to live with and that you’d get along with well, and make sure you’re on the same page with what you can afford,” McHam said.

In her case, Baker’s parents owned a condominium approximately two miles from campus. After assessing their needs and budgets, they decided it would be affordable and would accommodate both of their personal and academic needs.

The challenge of informing students about housing options is now the focus of a university research study. Students in a housing counseling class are conducting a semester-long research project about the most efficient way to distribute information and make it readily accessible for current and incoming students. The study is led by public service associate Karen Tinsley, who has a doctorate degree in economics.

Associate professor Kimberly Skobba, who has a doctorate in design, housing and apparel with a housing studies emphasis, is helping Tinsley with the research study. Skobba talked about the importance of knowing your needs, assessing a budget and doing sufficient research before signing a lease.

“A lot of people are competing for housing at the same time. The cycle of housing is very specific,” Skobba said. “Assessing your needs and starting to look for housing early on in the spring semester are beneficial. The more restricted your resources are, the earlier you need to look.”

Skobba said finding viable housing options requires knowing how much you can spend. “This drives everything,” said Skobba. McHam’s financial planning studies taught her that housing payments should be no more than 28 percent of your monthly income. This may not be maintainable as a student, but it gives a good idea of what to strive for.

Once a budget is in place, you must identify your needs and wants. “If transportation is an issue for you, you know you’d require housing near campus or transit routes,” Skobba said. According to Skobba, location and understanding how you’re going to get to campus are two of the biggest factors to take into consideration when scouting affordable housing.

Skobba suggested talking to other students who are either from the area or have lived in the area for their college careers and know it well.

“In the absence of a resource center, talking to other students is always a good strategy,” Skobba said.

However, Skobba warned to never pick the first place you see. She suggested that looking at a few housing options before signing any lease will allow you to know your options and determine what is available within the budget.