What’s the deal with Gamma Alpha?

Gamma Alpha is a cooperative, co-ed, and ecologically conscious house for students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Originally, Gamma Alpha was a national scientific fraternity (see the homepage and the Wikipedia article), but now we are a non-profit whose goal is to provide housing and community to graduate students at UM. The co-op owns the house, so residents buy a share of the co-op and are responsible for self-governance and the house’s upkeep.

Can I live in Gamma Alpha?

Because this Gamma Alpha exists to provide housing and community to graduate students at the University of Michigan, we cannot offer long-term housing to those not associated with the university. If you are affiliated but not a student (visiting scholar, etc.), you may live in the house for up to a year. We look for residents who can commit to long stays at the house–this helps strengthen community and retain knowledge–so PhD students are especially welcome to apply (although all graduate students are welcome)!

What does it cost to live in Gamma Alpha?

When residents first move in, they purchase a share in the coop, pay a deposit, and begin paying monthly rent. All of these costs are about the same. We are a non-profit, so you’ll find that our rent is extremely competitive; all money goes right back into the house and is used for upkeep, property taxes, etc. See the section about openings (below) to determine the current cost.

Is there a spot for me?

If you want to know if we have a spot open, the best thing to do is to email us at gamma.alpha.mi@gmail.com and ask.

Where’s the nearest (store, park, laundromat, etc.)? Do I need a car?

We’re about 1/2 a mile (as the crow flies) east of the intersection of Washtenaw and Geddes. The nearest corner store is about 1/2 a mile away, and the People’s Food Coop, Trader Joes, and larger supermarkets are 1.5 miles away or more. We’re close to several bus lines, including the Link, which runs during the school year.
At any give time, about 1/4 of our residents don’t have cars. Between your feet, a bicycle, the bus, and shared car rides, everyone is able to get where they need to be. If you have a car, we have parking in the driveway or on the street (some, but not all, streets require a $40/year residential parking permit).
Getting to campus is easy on foot or by bike: central (~15 mins walking) and north campus (~35 walking, 15 by bike).
We have in-house laundry machines, which all residents are welcome to use. All members are asked to keep track of the laundry they do and the totals are added to rent at the end of a given month ($0.50 for a load of the washing machine and $0.50 for the dryer).

How much work is required of residents?

Not too much, but more than if you rented, since we own the house. Therefore, in order to maintain the house and keep it running, we require that residents do the following:

  1. Weekly chores (e.g., cleaning the kitchen). Each chore takes about 30-60 minutes.
  2. House job (e.g., taking care of the yard, scheduling city inspections, or managing waste and recycling). Each job takes ~1-2 hours/week.
  3. House repairs (e.g., painting, fixing a broken chair, or re-tiling the bathroom). Each resident does 5 hours per semester.
  4. House cleaning days. Twice per year, we set aside an entire weekend day and work together to clean the house from top to bottom.
  5. House meetings. We meet about once a month during the school year (and less during the summer) to discuss all manner things relevant to the smooth operation of the house (e.g., budget updates, decisions about major repairs, planning for our 2 house parties, discussing applicants to the house, etc.). These meetings last 1-2 hours, on average.

Does living in a community mean I’ll always have to wait for the shower, stove, etc.?

Rarely, despite the fact that there are 13 residents in the house. In addition to private rooms for all residents, we have a guest room, 2.5 baths (i.e., 2 showers and 3 toilets), a living/dining room, a kitchen, a sun room, and a basement with on-site laundry. At any given time, residents of the house have varied schedules, so it is relatively uncommon to have waits for bathrooms. Similarly, there always seem to be enough spots on the stove.

Because residents spend their time both in private rooms and communal spaces (studying, socializing, or napping), you can strike a balance between privacy and community.

How does sharing of supplies and food work?

Although our house is big, we have only a limited amount of space in the pantry, fridges, etc. Each resident is assigned one fridge shelf, one freezer space, and 2 pantry shelves. This has proved adequate, because we share some commonly used food staples (flour, rice, spices, oils, etc.). We also share supplies for cleaning and basic house repairs. The cost of shared food and supplies comes out of the monthly rent.

Do house members eat together?

Yes, some days of the week, and optionally. Those that choose to eat together participate in the “food group,” which meets when residents choose to cook. This could be as often as once a week or once a month, depending on our schedules. Residents (and friends of the house) keep track of their participation, and cook or shop for food equitably. Money for this food is paid by the participating members of the food group.

How do I apply to be a resident?

If you think you’d be a good fit for the house (and vice versa), send an email to gamma.alpha.mi@gmail.com. If we mutually decide to begin an application, there is a written set of questions, as well as an interview (we invite people for dinner if they’re in town; otherwise it’s by phone). After that, we call a house meeting to dicuss and vote on applicants to the house.

When can I move in or out?

Whenever all rooms in the house are not occupied, we consider admitting new residents. Therefore, depending on availability, you could move in anytime. Since we are students, though, people tend to leave at the end of semesters, so moving in at the beginning of the semesters is typical. Summertime often is quite flexible.

When you move out, we require that you leave at the end of a semester and give several months’ notice.

Which room will I have?

This is a tricky question. Rooms are assigned by seniority, so that whenever anyone leaves the house, the most senior member has first dibs on the room. If the most senior member wants to stay where they are, the second most senior member has the option to move, and so on down the line. Therefore, short of convening a house meeting, it is quite difficult to say which room you may have.

In lieu of actually answering this question, it may be helpful to get a feel for the range of rooms. All are quite liveable; some are larger than others. The following table has some useful information, but recall that, as a member of the house, you have access to all common spaces in the house (kitchen, living/dining room, sun room, etc.). Also, for a full view of all room pictures, visit the Room Photos page!

Room Floor Faces Dimensions (ft) Windows Nearby Link Rent
1se 1 east, south 11.5 x 14.5, with 3×3 extra 5 shares wall with pantry 1, 2
1n 1 north 6 x 13, with 3×3 antechamber 3 between kitchen and front door 1, 2
1nw 1 north, west 9 x 14 3 front door see 2nw
2e 2 east 9 x 11 1 1, 2
2se 2 south, east 9 x 11.5 6 1, 23
2sw 2 south, west 9 x 11.5 6 see 2se
2w 2 west 11 x 13 2 shares wall with bathroom 1, 2
2nw 2 north, west 10 x 13 3 shares wall with bathroom 1
2nes 2 north, east, south 12 x 13 3 bathoom / under stairs to 3rd floor 1, 2
3e1 3 east 9.5 x 8.5, 4×4 alcove 1 1, 2,3,closet $10 less
3e2 3 east 9.5 x 8.5, 4×4 alcove 1 see 3e1 $10 less
3w 3 west 6.5 x 17, with two 4×4.5 alcoves 2 1, 23
3sw 3 south, west bedroom = 8.5 x 10.5; study = 9.5 x 10.5, with 4×4 alcove 3 no pic yet $20 more

What about all my stuff?

We have plenty of storage space. We also have some furniture that can be used in residents’ rooms (every room has a bed, a dresser and a desk that residents can choose to keep in their room or move to storage for the duration of their time in the house). We also have a fully-stocked kitchen, so you are not required to share your favorite cups or pan with the house. You are, of course, welcome to do so if you choose!

Can guests stay in the house?

Our community is what makes our house special, and we always enjoy meeting friends of residents. If visitors wish to stay overnight, we have a dedicated guest room that may be reserved on a first come, first serve basis. There’s no charge for guests using that room up to a week, but after that we charge. Visitors are also welcome to stay in your room. We expect guests to follow the same guidelines for behavior (i.e., no loud noise late at night, cleaning up after oneself, etc.) that we expect of each other, but we’re really a quite welcoming house.