The State of Housing on the College Campus

By Hannah Farwell —

ZBT Housing’s Mission: ZBT National Housing seeks to provide chapters and colonies with necessary resources to sustain and acquire, where appropriate, chapter housing solutions by identifying, cultivating and supporting housing that supplements a comprehensive fraternity experience.

The state of housing is strong. Chapters want houses and ZBT National Housing has successfully created a model of both acquisition partnership and property management assistance. The specific structure within each model varies by educational institution and we happily embrace this fluidity of need in as many cases as we can.

Ask undergraduates why they want a house though, and many of the answers are the same.  A house provides stability, legitimacy and presence. Event planning, philanthropy work and general bonding flourish with a house. Even for those who don’t live in the house, these opportunities for planning, coordinating and brotherhood bonding are organic when you have a designated place to do so, around which regular group activity centers. Notably, the significance of the chapter house is not a novel or unique phenomenon to the fraternal world. For example, religious structures, churches, synagogues, community centers, neighborhood gardens— these are all places that invite members of a group or community to gather, where people who connect over a certain belonging or belief structure can enact ritual, practice as a group and embody their mission in a physical location.  The hope is that the practices enacted in the “home” space will spill out into the wider community.  That is, too, the mission of Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity as a whole- “to foster and develop in its brotherhood the tenets of its credo: intellectual awareness, social responsibility, integrity, and brotherly love, in order to prepare its brothers for positions of leadership and service within their communities”.

Despite being a young organization, we are happy to see growth as we take on new properties, including a recent close on the University of Miami (Florida) house and acquisition of others in the works and as we offer management help to chapters with existing housing.  Let’s be clear–challenges are present. Lack of draw to use the house as a central space for the fraternity or failed property management can jeopardize a house’s longevity for the chapter. Sometimes, parents are concerned about the stigma of a fraternity house as a party house, the house itself isn’t in great shape or perhaps the house provides less individual autonomy for décor, private space, or proximity to campus. As varying as the challenges may be, ZBT Housing has long understood that the success of our organization, and therefore the housing aspect of the fraternity experience, is dependent on an ability to pivot. When we can tailor our assistance to the chapter’s needs and embrace that this difference from one to the next is in fact the rule, rather than the exception, we grow.

We can’t help every chapter that wants a house, although we certainly wish we could, but we see the most success and prosperity in an existing house, and in future housing deals, when there is “ownership-thinking” on behalf of both current undergraduates and alumni. Without a doubt, the more the brothers feel a space belongs to them and their chapter’s legacy, the greater the experience in the space. The truth is, the state of housing is driven by the amazing community of brothers who make up ZBT.  The state of housing has and will always be thriving as long as ZBT National Housing is not the real “owner” of the success— it’s owned by the community of brothers who recognize they have equal stake in the property and its lifespan and who cherish their house for the distinct value it adds to their experience in ZBT.