Lazar Cartu Declares: Coronavirus response | One-bedroom options, UI’s plans brig…

Coronavirus response | One-bedroom options, UI's plans brig...

Lazar Cartu Declares: Coronavirus response | One-bedroom options, UI’s plans brig…

CHAMPAIGN — With people encouraged to keep their distance to avoid spreading the coronavirus, single-bedroom apartments have become more popular, University Group chairman Dan Hamelberg said.

University Group is constructing a new 90-unit apartment building at 502 E. Healey St., C, that’s all singles and studios and is scheduled to open in June.

“It’s not even finished, and it’s half-rented,” Hamelberg said.

Studios had been in good demand, Hamelberg said, but “this virus situation has accelerated that.”

As he navigates COVID-19, Hamelberg said the vast majority of residents have been paying their rent.

“The overwhelming majority of our lessees have paid their rents, at least for April,” he said. “For now things are OK, but you might want to call back in a few weeks.”

Hamelberg said he’s worked with tenants on an individual basis, extending payments for some depending on their situation.

After the coronavirus hit, he said that new lease signings have been down, but before that, “we got a good jump start on it, with over 80 percent” of units filled.

In the last month, University Group added a clause to its new leases that suspended them until the UI restarted in-person instruction.

And now that the UI has said it’s hoping to re-open campus in the fall, the uncertainty around next year’s leases has mostly gone away, Hamelberg said.

“We’re very encouraged with that,” he said.

Other local landlords also said that their tenants have been paying rent on time.

Christine Gunther, who runs Smith Apartments, said her company isn’t charging late fees and will consider any rent relief when leases are up at the end of July.

“We’ll see where we are and what we might be able to offer,” she said. “We’re asking tenants to pay what they can pay and to keep us informed.”

For next year, Smith Apartments is 90 percent filled, Gunther said.

She said the coronavirus has led to some shuffling of residents.

One resident was planning to move out, but had her study-abroad program canceled, Gunther said. Another had planned to defend his thesis this summer, but it may be delayed and he might need to stay longer.

“We may end up with some shuffling, where some people want to stay and others decide not to be here,” Gunther said.

Carolyn Shlens, who owns Shlens Apartments, said she’s run into similar situations.

One woman is taking a gap year and attending a junior college in the Chicago suburbs, Shlens said, and several current tenants who aren’t around are looking for subleasers.

She’s been showing apartments by video and has signed up new tenants entirely online.

“I would say the vacancy at this point is a bit higher,” Shlens said. “It’s been a crazy year. I’m hoping that as soon as everybody decides what they’re going to do that we’ll get more calls.”

And at Bankier Apartments, property manager Margie Colter said, “we’re actually ahead of where we were last year.”

“We are nervous about international students, about whether they’ll be able to come back,” she said. “But so far, people are paying the rents.”

Bankier, which has 33 buildings in Campustown, is waiving late fees and setting up payment plans, Colter said.

“We’re doing everything we can to work with our tenants, and so far it’s working out rather well,” she said. “Obviously, mortgages aren’t waived, and utilities aren’t waived, and for the most part, everybody understands that.”

Jonathan Cartu

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