Fashion students struggle to find affordable housing in the Big Apple

Sophia Iannelli

With a required internship on the to-do list, fashion students are struggling to find affordable housing in New York City.

Kent’s fashion program requires all merchandising and design students to obtain an internship to receive credit. Many students find themselves applying for these internships in New York City, more specifically, the Garment District in Manhattan.

The Garment District is home to many of the city’s showrooms and major fashion labels, making the area a desired internship location for ambitious fashion students. Large companies such as Oscar de la Renta and Victoria’s Secret have corporate offices in the heart of the neighborhood.

Katelyn Overla, sophomore fashion merchandising major, will be working as a merchandising intern at Victoria’s Secret PINK in Manhattan this summer. Overla said she has been searching for a place to live for months but has had no luck finding something affordable.

“We just don’t have a lot of options,” Overla said. “You either find a cheap dorm that’s in Brooklyn or some other 40-minute commute, or you’re going to pay a really high price for something convenient downtown.”

Overla explained that PINK will give her a $3,000 stipend for housing but she won’t receive it until two to three weeks after she starts working. Many places that allow short-term leases in the city require tenants to pay their rent upfront. So even if interns like Overla are offered housing stipends from their employer, they will have to pay upfront and use their stipend as reimbursement.

According to user contributed database, Numbeo, someone renting in New York City would need approximately $7,829 to maintain the same standard of life they would have renting in Akron for around $3,400. That is more than double the cost of living. Rent prices alone are 58 percent higher in New York City than in Akron.

A housing list that overviews housing options in the city is available on the Kent NYC Studio website. Other than those recommendations, the university has no part in finding housing for interns.

“They find housing on their own,” said internship director Hillary Stone. “There are a lot of different ways to approach housing. Some students find others that are also going to New York and work together to secure something like an Airbnb.”

Louie Matthies, a junior fashion merchandising major, is currently living in New York City while interning at Oscar de la Renta. Matthies said he recommends finding anything besides an Airbnb because the bad experiences he’s heard outweigh the good.

“No matter how cheap it is, don’t use Airbnb,” Matthies said. “Someone I know was supposed to move in on Jan. 10 and on Jan. 5 Airbnb called to tell her they had canceled her reservation, because they can do that.”

Matthies said he is lucky enough to have the means to cover his $3,600 monthly rent but he feels for all of the people that have to take out loans and use a lot of their savings just to live near where they work.

“For someone like me, who has the means for a more expensive monthly price, there are more options,” Matthies said. “But that’s just not the case for everyone.”

Overla and Matthies both said they wish there were more resources regarding housing since these internships are required for graduation and a majority of them are located far away, like in New York.

“I think Kent needs to have some sort of ambassador program where people who have already gone through this, or know a lot about it, can help people like us who don’t know what we are looking for,” Overla said.

The Fashion School is open to recommendations that would help improve the internship experience overall.

“Kent State is always looking for ways to improve our processes and better serve our students,” Stone said.  

Sophia Iannelli is a fashion reporter. Contact her at [email protected].