With the city building up many neighborhoods, native residents along with college students have experienced the shortcomings of the remodeling. Howard University students actively try to improve the community surrounding their school combating insufficient housing, homelessness and food security.

During the week of events that mirror what has become a spring break ritual of community service, students found that they are at the center of community need. A combination of Howard’s success in attracting students and the District’s soaring housing market means that, for many, there is a housing crisis.

“I think COVID has definitely done a number, especially with our campus not being open this past year. It felt like we couldn’t be as hands-on as we needed to be. In my past four years the neighborhood is also being gentrified as well,” said Ijeoma Nwankwo, a senior at Howard University.

Nwankwo hopes that the university and the city can find a way to solve this housing issue for students with partnerships with builders and landlords.

“A lot of us are, one, living off-campus, but, two, I know it’s difficult for a lot of us to find housing to be near campus because there’s all of these expensive apartments that are being built basically on campus that they know students will not be able to afford,” said Nwankwo.

Meanwhile, university administrators say that students are poised to learn problem-solving skills while on the front line of life in an urban center.

“We look forward to putting the future of change not only in Washington, D.C. but across the nation and the world. Our students have a very unique viewpoint and perspective when it comes to the most critical issues that impact the world today,” said Andreya Davis, assistant dean for Faith-based and Community Initiatives.

Returning to campus, she said, they are finding that the community surrounding the school is a different demographic from when they left. Students have directly been impacted by the issues they are trying to solve outside of their campus border.

With rents soaring in the District, students are being steered to the outskirts of the city for affordable places to live. This makes it more difficult for student leaders like Nwankwo, who are very involved with the school and must be on campus frequently.

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