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College Trend Alert: Shacking Up in McMansions, Not Dorms

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McMansions: so hot right now! That is, if you're a college kid at the University of California in Merced, the city with the third-highest foreclosure rate in the country. According to a recent piece in the New York Times, the university can house 1,600 of its 5,200 students, prompting a recent exodus to dirt-cheap and amenities-rich off-campus housing: foreclosed subdivision homes that are often large enough to house five people. At a rate of $200 to $350 a month per student, the accommodations ring in cheaper than the dorms and come with the obvious perks: granite countertops, marble baths, swanky light fixtures, soaring great rooms, the ability to do homework in a "light-filled living room while soaking a silk caftan in one of two master bathroom sinks," "princely boudoir[s] with a whirlpool tub worthy of Caesars Palace," and—of course—smokin'-hot social status. Taking advantage of cheap housing may seem like all fun and games to the students, but it's got the hard-hit neighbors none too pleased. “This was supposed to be an edge-of-town, Desperate Housewifey community,” said one unemployed man who paid $532K on a house now worth $221K and has monthly payments of $3K. “These students are the reverse.”

Photo: Max Whittaker/NYT

· Animal McMansion: Students Trade Dorm For Suburban Luxury [NYT]