LANL interns face housing shortage

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Online help > Students can find resources through Facebook community, LANL site

By Tris DeRoma

Students arriving this summer for internships at the Los Alamos National Laboratory will face a tough challenge trying to find a place to stay in Los Alamos County.
With a shortage of rooms and student housing running up against the lab’s intentions to expand its workforce by the thousands in the next several years, interns will be left with few options for housing.
In 2016, LANL hired over 1,000 summer interns.
Every year, stories emerge of students camping out in the Jemez or getting an apartment in Santa Fe to help them through the summer. Their stay times can last a week, a season, or only a month, making it hard to fit them into an apartment lease or some other structured rent situation in Los Alamos County, even though they may have the money to pay.   
“Those of us who are in the business of knowing about lab students and their summer housing situation, we know it can be a near-desperate attempt to find housing for students,” said resident Stephen Boerigter, who is also the chairman of the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos Advisory Board and a member of the Los Alamos Public School District board.
During intern season in Los Alamos, rent can range between $700 and $900. If an intern starts looking in January, they may be able to get a room for $500 for the length of their stay.
It’s all about supply and demand, according to an administrator of one of the Facebook pages that connects homeowners and renters.
While the rent price sounds high, it’s not higher than any other place. The dynamic is no different than any other town that has something people want. Instead of having a beach or a huge tech sector, like California’s Silicon Valley, Los Alamos has LANL.
However, if more people opened their homes to interns, the prices could go down.
“The more people that are willing to open up their rooms, the prices will drop,” said the administrator, who preferred not to be named. “It’s a win-win for the students and the community.”  
To help with the situation, various local online communities and websites have sprung up to help students and those willing to rent a room or an apartment for the summer.
A Facebook community called “Los Alamos County Rentals” has emerged as a go-to site for prospective interns from all over the world.
All one has to do to gain access to the page is answer a short questionnaire about themselves and their situation. If they check out OK, administrators of the page waive them in, where they then get access to posts from residents offering to rent a room, a house or other living situation.
Residents who have rooms to rent are also welcome to join the group.
For those new to the idea of renting, going through Facebook may be their best option.
“It allows a person to do a little bit of exploration and communication with a potential student,” Boerigter said.  
It’s also suggested that those looking to rent a room in their house to  a student must also ask themselves some questions, such as are they comfortable with the thought of sharing their home with a stranger, and, is it even physically possible.
Not only could privacy be an issue, but sharing mutual utility rooms such as a kitchen or a laundry room could have its problems.
“Is your home laid out in a way that’s conducive to offering an appropriate level of privacy for both you the homeowner  and your guest?   … And if you have to share cooking and eating spaces, maybe you should give that an extra thought.” Boerigter said.
Another Facebook community interns may want to check out for more rental options is “students@lanl.”
Whatever Facebook community one decides to use, make sure to take a good look around to see how things are done, and what the etiquette is.
“If you look at their Facebook page and it’s full of alcohol and parties, you don’t want that in your house,” the administrator said.
LANL’s website also is a great source for homeowners and interns. The lab offers a page of advice and resources on its own site at lanl.gov/careers. It also works through a third-party site called internhousing.com. That site not only offers a platform for homeowners and interns to find each other, but also other resources to make the process easier.