Friday, February 14, 2020

The Downward Trend of Fraternity Housing

Having observed fraternity housing for over 30 years on multiple campuses, it appears we have entered a new phase for fraternity housing. This new phase continues a downward trend in fraternity housing that first began in the late 1990s and has resulted in a decreasing desire by college men to live in fraternity chapter houses. If the owners of fraternity properties and the leaders of the national fraternities ignore this trend, we predict we will see a significant loss of fraternity properties similar to what resulted in the early 1970s.

The downward trend in housing has been caused by several factors, but one of the most significant factors is the expectation that 19 and 20-year-old men with no professional training can be tasked with successfully managing a $300,000 to $700,000 annual housing operations including the food service program, the financial management, and the building maintenance and repairs. It doesn’t take much thought to understand why this is a recipe for disaster. For example, Alpha Fraternity Management is currently working to turn-around a housing operation in which undergraduate mismanagement has resulted in over $250,000 in financial losses over a two-year period.

As more and more of the daily management duties were transferred to the undergraduate chapter leaders, the daily condition of many fraternities declined. Changes in the scheduling of university classes into the evening hours and the proliferation of campus restaurants and delivery services has resulted in members being less interested in meal service programs, which we know are an important element of the brotherhood experience. Over this period, fraternity alumni have been less engaged in advising, mentoring and sharing the fraternity’s culture and standards. Much of what fraternity alumni view as the traditional fraternity experience no longer exists. It has been replaced by a culture based on the priorities and standards of 19-year-old men.

The chapter house has grown to be viewed as simply a place to live and party when you are a sophomore. The decrease of services at the chapter house, the poor condition of the properties, and the lack of beneficial housing services and alumni engagement has resulted in a loss of importance of the chapter house and lower levels of loyalty to the fraternity. Most fraternity members now have a primary loyalty to the members of their 20- to 30-man pledge class, rather than to the larger chapter membership, the chapter or the national fraternity. At the same time, the renovated dormitories and a proliferation of large, new campus apartment properties are providing housing competition that is much nicer and has better amenities. These factors have contributed to a culture in which the expectation is that upperclassman don’t live in the chapter house.

Up to this point, sophomore members have still been willing to live in the chapter house because it gives them a place to hold their social activities. However, the recent negative publicity related to fraternity-related incidents has resulted in many parents refusing to allow their son to live in a chapter house. Sophomore members are finding out that they can still be part of the fraternity experience but not live in the chapter house. Chapters are having difficulty filling the 25 to 30 beds in their chapter house when their memberships exceed 100 men. Chapter officers are now elected as sophomores and it has become routine that key officers no longer live in the chapter house.

The current trend is that members primarily want a lodge or simply a party hall at which they can hold their social activities. The chapter house is shifting to that function, and it is likely that occupancy levels will continue to decline unless fraternity property owners act to reverse this trend.

If you would like to discuss this trend and what you can do to combat it, give us a call at 1-833-ALPHA00 or email us at We’d be happy to talk!