Pitt students explore off-campus living options

By Maggie Young, For The Pitt News

Most on-campus residences at Pitt allow students to wake up five minutes before class starts without being late. But with the ease of on-campus housing comes smaller spaces and stricter rules. In search of cozier, cheaper options, Pitt students will start exploring housing off-campus — both near and far.

Pitt students reside in multiple areas around the City, including neighborhoods such as Mt. Washington, Shadyside, North Oakland and South Oakland. Commutes to campus can vary from a 10-minute walk to an hour-long bus ride.

While a majority of students living off-campus live in North and South Oakland, Asher Epstein, a junior studying physics, has a much longer commute to class than many off-campus residents from his apartment near Mt. Washington. Epstein said it takes him anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get to Oakland from his apartment, which his family owns.

“It’s pretty stressful trying to catch the bus,” Epstein said. “There’s been a few times where I’ve left my house an hour before my class starts and I end up being 15 to 20 minutes late. One time I was 30 minutes late and I was actually marked absent.”

Epstein has lived all over Pittsburgh — including Tower A in South Oakland and currently an apartment in Allentown, which sits a little farther past Mt. Washington but is still positioned on the overlook.

While he mostly keeps to himself in his off-campus residence, Epstein said he enjoys the “metal scene” in Allentown. A variety of tattoo parlors and small businesses such as Black Forest Coffee and SuperMonkey, a record store, create an atmosphere for listeners of the metal genre.

“I like the area, it’s just a little shady. But it’s my kind of shady,” Epstein said.

Speaking of shady, recent grad Jessie Wallace recommends living in Shadyside. Wallace, now a resident of East Liberty, graduated from Pitt in the spring of 2018 after living in a Shadyside apartment for her junior and senior year, where she enjoyed the quiet atmosphere.

“I didn’t go out a whole lot or go to parties that much,” Wallace said. “It was nice to go to Shadyside where it was quieter and more residential and I honestly loved it. It’s just like going to high school, you have to drive to school so it’s kind of the same idea.”

Though Shadyside is a long walking distance from campus, Wallace owned a car and would drive it to campus. She said she doesn’t think the commute should deter students from wanting to live in the neighborhood since Port Authority buses regularly pass through on their way to Oakland. The proximity to stores like Target and Trader Joe’s and the variety of restaurants and shops were enough to convince Wallace that Shadyside was her best choice.

“If there’s someone who likes the residential feel, in your own world but still not that far away from campus, I totally recommend it,” Wallace said.

Before deciding on Shadyside, Wallace debated living in South Oakland her junior year, but ultimately went with the former. But like a number of students, Luca Shanley, a sophomore studying neuroscience and Spanish, figured that South Oakland was his best option for off-campus housing.

“It’s kind of a hike from campus,” Shanley said. “But I like the freedom of not having an RA, and having my own room is the best thing ever. My friends live close so that’s always a plus, too.”

Originally from Boston, Shanley said housing in South Oakland is much cheaper than in his native city. However, he said the quality of the houses and apartments in South Oakland don’t always meet the expectations of students. The cracks in his ceiling and his broken garbage disposal has aggravated Shanley since he moved in earlier this year.

Epstein, who lived South Oakland his sophomore year, said it can be a little dirty, but the social benefits outweigh the frustrations that come with living there.

“South Oakland itself is awesome,” Epstein said. “It’s kinda shady … kinda gross, but regardless of all that it’s really fun … just by living in South Oakland you’re going to meet a lot more people and make fun memories.”

Regardless of the potential setbacks, Shanley said the prime location and sense of a college community drove him and his roommate to rent their current apartment in South Oakland.

“I’d recommend it for a Pitt student,” Shanley said. “As long as they’re OK with living conditions that are less than what they are probably used to at home.”

While some students are drawn to living in South Oakland, others live up the hill in North Oakland. Joe Huber, a junior studying computer science, said life there isn’t that bad.

“It’s downhill to all my classes which is nice,” Huber said. “The walk back is all uphill … strengthening my legs.”

Huber and his roommates have been living in North Oakland since the beginning of the semester. Compared to where his friends live in South Oakland, Huber said he feels that houses in North Oakland have more privacy. He said the heightened privacy works out well for him, since he considers himself to be “kind of a hermit,” usually spending time in his own room if he’s not in class or at a friend’s place down the hill.

Regardless of the distance and uphill climb, Huber said living in North Oakland is “not too bad,” just because he loves the overall Oakland community.

“The house itself is kind of ‘meh,’” Huber said. “We’ve had some problems before we moved in here, but we’ve managed to make it home.”