Finding the Holy Grail of apartments

It might sound dramatic, but finding affordable living arrangements in Portland could be the most challenging thing you’ll face in your college experience. Between skyrocketing rent, sketchy Craigslist postings, and the need to get out of the hellhole you’re currently living in, finding the ideal—and affordable—place to live can feel like the search for the Holy Grail.

Apartment hunting in Portland is a bit of a nightmare, but there are options available to students that make the search a little less doom-y. Just a little, though.

On-campus living

Portland State’s Housing & Residence Life offers the First Year Experience program, designed to help first-year students transition into living on an urban campus. It’s essentially a support system for newcomers that pushes for a community with strong social connections and academic success. Most students in the FYE live in either Ondine or Broadway, but honors students can also live in Stephen Epler Hall.

Continuing and transfer students have the option of living in an assortment of historic, modern or urban honors apartments. Historic buildings include Blackstone, King Albert, Montgomery, Parkway, St. Helens Court and Stratford. The modern options include Blumel, Broadway, Ondine and Stephen Epler (which is also the honors option).

Graduate students have an exclusive living choice in Blumel Hall. To qualify for the Graduate Residential Community, you must be fully admitted to graduate studies in a Master’s or Doctoral program and be registered for at least four credit hours per term. If you’re a student with children, there are one- and two-bedroom options in Broadway, Parkway, St. Helens, Stratford and Blumel.

Another option near the PSU campus is University Pointe, which is not owned or maintained by the university. University Pointe is a part of American University Communities, a national property management company. The 16 floors boast nearly a thousand beds and a short walk to the main campus.

Off-campus living

If you’re looking to live off campus, the hunt is a little more open-ended and the dream apartment is elusive.

Affordable options are a rare find—again, think Holy Grail here. In theory, the farther you get from downtown, the cheaper rent gets. Pockets of housing in Northeast and Southeast Portland are unjustifiably and intimidatingly expensive, but the east side is generally much cheaper than downtown. Many students are turning to areas like Beaverton and Gresham for cheap apartments. If that’s what you’re thinking of doing, expect long travel times to make it in to campus.

In terms of where to find places that are renting, it can seem like it comes down to knowing somebody who knows somebody, being in the right place at the right time, or clicking your heels three times and hoping for the best. For good measure, try one part Craigslist, with equal parts housing apps Zillow and Trulia.

Ask around, do some Google detective work, find out where your friends live and don’t break the bank. Good luck out there!