A new Greek Housing Improvements Program will change the way Greek housing is funded.
The program will restructure the funding available for maintenance needs of the 23 Greek houses managed by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.
It will unite the funds of each Greek house, using a Capital Fund line, to remove the current individual budgetary constraints of the 23 properties. Chapter house funds will now be centrally pooled and distributed according to individual house needs.
The University will also contribute a $2 million cash grant and a $3 million lower-interest line of credit to work alongside the $5 million pool of existing house funding.
In total, the program has assigned $10 million over the next five years for housing renovations. This provision is a significant step up from the $4 million previously provided by the University over the past ten years to help Greek houses meet life safety regulations, like fire safety.
Individual chapter budget meetings will finish at the end of this week. Timelines will then be developed for building projects and capital improvement plans to begin this summer, OFSL director Scott Reikofski said.
Chapter houses were informed of the new program on Jan. 27, and the initiative was also mentioned in the facilities section of the report on the yearlong commission on alcohol and student safety, which was released in February.
The program has been announced after discussions that began about two and a half years ago, Reikofski said.
The plan signifies a “paradigm shift” in the way housing improvements are funded, Executive Director of Real Estate for FRES Ed Datz said .
The money will not just address immediate maintenance needs, however. “It’s a pot of seed money,” Reikofski said.
Much of the funding will work to create an internally self-sustaining system that is “designed to have a future,” Datz added .
It will address issues such as house vacancies when students spend semesters abroad and unexpected maintenance works. Before the plan, these issues “impacted disproportionately to the house,” Datz explained, outlining how budgets of smaller houses were more strained.
The Capital Fund line will “absorb fluctuations” which would previously have impacted operations, so that “houses aren’t forced to make choices,” Datz said.
The improvements program will also be advancing more capital projects, such as major building works. Projects this summer will be on a larger scale than normal, but they are still evaluating specific timelines for individual chapter house projects, Reikofski said.
Work will be done on a portfolio basis, whereby the communal budget will be applied where it is most needed. “It’s going to be different for each house,” Reikofski explained, as the current maintenance needs are varied.
These needs spring mostly from the age of the houses and their “old, historic properties,” he added.
In the past, the Greek housing system has faced maintenance issues with serious consequences. In 1999 and 2011, Michael Tobin and Matthew Crozier died at fraternity parties on campus, both resulting in wrongful death lawsuits against the University related to maintenance and safety standards.
Reikofski said, however, that the decision to implement the improvements program has not stemmed from any particular incident. The idea for the Capital Fund line arose because “we just happened to have the right combination of people around the table,” he said. Then, “the more we looked at it, the more compelling it became.”
“I’m very excited,” Reikofski added. “I think a model like this has been a long time coming, and it’s going to be really positive for fraternity and sorority members.”