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Hundreds of students forced to live in temporary hotel rooms, possibly left homeless after delay in promised housing

A student living in a hotel, waiting for her apartment to open, has to leave during football weekends because the room is already booked. (Kennedy Mason/WUFT News).
A student living in a hotel, waiting for her apartment to open, has to leave during football weekends because the room is already booked. (Kennedy Mason/WUFT News).

People love University of Florida football. That’s why fans book hotel rooms months in advance for the games.

On Sept. 16, several hotels across Gainesville were sold out for the UF versus Tennessee game.

But for many students in Gainesville, that meant packing up their stuff and looking for a new place to live.

Reya Brauer, a sophomore at UF, is living and working on her class assignments at the Holiday Inn.

“We're all getting kicked out of the hotel,” Brauer said. “All of the hotels, because it's the Tennessee game. So the hotels have been over booked for months.”

Brauer is one of the 651 students who were supposed to move into the UFORA Gainesville apartment complex, described as a luxury apartment complex, near campus and sorority row, on Aug. 5. However, students are not living luxury as they wait for their apartments to be built. Living in temporary housing, hotel rooms and some even facing homelessness, students are anxious to know when the waiting will end.

Brauer moved from Los Angeles, California to Gainesville, Florida in August 2022 to study behavioral and cognitive neuroscience.

When looking for a place to live this year, she wanted to be near campus so she could walk to class, not having a car.

She said many apartment complexes near campus were already filled with students when she tried to sign last spring semester.

“When I signed at UFORA, we all assumed that it would be done on time,”she said.

But Brauer was wrong. She is living out of a suitcase and paying for a storage unit to hold her bedding, the rest of her clothing and everything else she needs for her future apartment.

On top of all of that, Brauer said it’s difficult to study in the hotel.

“'I’m grateful that this room has a desk, but the WiFi is spotty,” she said. “I have already gone over my hotspot usage for the month.”

Caroline Eaton is also stuck living out of bags in an empty apartment, almost a month into the school year. Her apartment does not have anything on the walls, her closet is half full and her tables have nothing on them.

She said it’s not how she pictured the start of her sophomore year at UF.

Eaton was hoping to be cooking in her own kitchen, using the treadmill in her brand-new gym and sitting on a couch that had pillows she picked out months ago with her roommates.

The delayed contractors, concerned parents and anxious students are all left waiting for a resolution, not knowing who to blame.

On July 6, just a month and a day before the scheduled move-in date, the complex notified students via email that they had no place to live. “Our team has been working non-stop to prepare for your arrival. Unfortunately, at this time, due to contractor delays, we are expecting a delay for your move-in date," the letter said.

UFORA told future residents they had two options. Originally, students received $30 per day if they chose the hotel accommodations and $600 a week if they chose to find their own accommodations. They are now offering $50 a day, so $350 a week, if they chose the hotel accommodations.

Eaton chose to find her own accommodations and receive $600 a week. She said she is hoping for some stability soon.

"One of the things holding me back from coming to UF, because it's scary even as a sophomore, was the fact that I had a stable place to live,” Eaton said.

Gina Vinueza, a future UFORA resident parent, said the lack of transparency is disappointing.

“The difficulty is not so much understanding the situation because I certainly do understand the building delays,” Vineuza said. “The issue has been the lack of communication.”

Vinueza and other parents have asked UF’s legal resources team to get involved. WUFT reached out to UF Student Legal Services in August to ask how many students had come to them in the past few weeks, months and/or years with leasing or tenancy issues related to these luxury apartment delays, and what percentage of their office's workload it accounts for.

“In the past two to three weeks, we’ve seen an approximate 150% increase in the average number of intakes submitted by our students,” said Ray Cauthon, UF SLS Associate Director, in an email on Aug. 14.

Sweetwater Gainesville, located at 1250 W University Ave, is having the same issue.

Five-hundred-two residents were supposed to move in the weekend of Aug. 18, but Sweetwater Leasing sent emails out to residents on Aug. 4 saying that some units were not going to be ready.

Days later, Sweetwater sent another email stating every unit would be impacted by the delay. Similar to UFORA, Sweetwater also gave students two options for finding a place to stay.

Haley Strauch, a junior at UF, was supposed to live at Sweetwater.

She’s looking forward to it finally being completed.

“I’m just really excited to have my own home,” she said. “It’s been really stressful moving around, and I’m excited to live with my roommates.”

One of the reasons for the delays is that the complexes cannot pass their inspections to gain a certificate of occupancy.

According to a Sweetwater spokesperson, they are “working with the City of Gainesville to pass all inspections.”

There are several factors that go into passing an inspection such as mechanical, plumbing, and electrical.

Felicia Sheiner, a junior advertising major at UF, decided to arrange her own accommodations, but she got a hotel in the meantime.

"My mom jumped to it and got a bedroom in the Holiday Inn, on top of Piesanos, because it’s right there on campus,” she said.

But she said the Holiday Inn was too expensive, and she didn’t enjoy living out of a hotel.

She moves to different places every week or so, living with friends.

"I have toiletries, and then in my car I have extra toiletries which I didn't think I needed,” she said. “I'm glad I have them because I'm running out of the toiletries I have.”

Sheiner said it’s been hard to prepare for classes and get started with her school year, and she feels eager to finally get settled.

"I really can't start a decent schedule of things that I want to do until I move in, until I actually have a place,” she said.

On Sept. 15 and 16, UFORA management let parents and students know they expect units to be ready by Sept. 30. Sweetwater updated the specific FAQ page regarding the delays on their website on Sept. 15, saying the building has passed more of the inspections needed to open. However, they did not provide an updated move-in date.