updated 7/31/2005 10:19:29 PM ET 2005-08-01T02:19:29

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is already scrambling to secure student housing for the fall in Honolulu's tight rental market.

Major Market Indices

The school has only 3,000 dormitory spaces on campus but an enrollment of 20,000. There is a shortage of rooms even thought many students commute from home.

"We're getting ready to start advertising for people to give us listings," said Terry Howell, coordinator for off-campus housing for the University of Hawaii. "We're going to start it a month earlier than usual to build up our database before everyone gets here and starts panicking."

Officials are trying to avoid a repeat of last summer's housing crisis — one of the University of Hawaii's worst in recent memory.

Last year, by July about 1,400 students at Manoa were on the waiting list for housing for the fall semester.

Although UH expects to add 700 more dorm rooms on campus by 2007 and an additional 2,000 by 2010, that won't help this year.

Fall enrollment at the Manoa campus, as well as Hawaii Pacific University and Chaminade University, look set to match levels last year, meaning demand for rooms will be strong.

Some parents are already worried.

Heather Trombly of upstate New York has been calling and e-mailing to find a home for her son, Brandon, who will be a freshman at UH in September.

Her son's housing application was three days late, so the UH Housing office told her they can't guarantee dorm space, even though the university says it will accommodate all freshmen, she said.

"I've called and called and e-mailed and they told me they're on the third round of putting people in the dorms," she said. "They said, 'You're on the waiting list,' but then yesterday they referred me to off-campus housing."

Priority for campus housing goes to freshmen and sophomore transfer students, then local students living the farthest from campus. Mainlanders and international students follow, then Hawaii students living closer to UH. Late applicants have last priority.

The university is accelerating its housing application process this year so it will be able to inform those left out sooner.

"We've moved up all our deadlines to make it easier to process requests, get housing done and get financial aid out faster," said Neal Smatresk, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the UH-Manoa campus. "We're serving the same number of people as last year but the difference is people didn't know they weren't going to get housing last year. By letting people know where they stand faster, we're hoping they can make better plans."

Some Honolulu residents are opening their homes to students.

Japanese language tutor Kim Hashimoto and her boyfriend, Lyndle Harper, rent rooms in their Kaimuki home to international students.

Gathering an international group of students into their home has provided an added dimension to their lives, as well as extra income. The students pay $550 a month, less than the going rate of around $620 a month for a single room near the university.

"It would be cool if a lot of the older families who owned homes opened them up to university students," said Harper, a personal trainer. "They're imagining it's rowdy," he said, "but you just have to set house rules like no smoking in the house and quiet time after 10 p.m."

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