How does fraternity housing work?

Bennett Quigley
November 26, 2023

What is a fraternity house?

A fraternity house is a central hub for members of a college fraternity, offering both living space and a venue for various activities. Typically located on or near a college campus, these houses serve as a home for some fraternity members, providing shared living quarters like dormitories. Beyond just accommodation, fraternity houses are vital for hosting meetings, social events, study sessions, and fostering a sense of brotherhood. Managed by the fraternity with guidance from alumni, these houses operate under specific rules and contribute significantly to the fraternity's community spirit and collective experiences during college years.

Types of Fraternity Housing

Fraternity houses can be on-campus or off-campus. It is important to understand the pros and cons of each when planning to build a fraternity house and when you are living in the house.

1. On-Campus Fraternity Houses

What is an on-campus fraternity house?

An on-campus fraternity house is a residence located within the confines or on the property of a college or university, which is designated for the members of a specific fraternity. These houses serve as both living quarters and central locations for various fraternity activities, such as social activities and chapter meetings.

How are on-campus fraternity houses managed?

When a fraternity house is located on campus property, the university typically owns the land and/or the house itself. Fraternities enter into a lease agreement with the university which outlines the terms and conditions of using the property. Because of this, it’s imperative the fraternity stays compliant with university policies such as housing standards, health and safety regulations, and conduct guidelines or they’ll be at risk of having the lease terminated. This creates a close relationship between the campus and the fraternity, creating a bigger bond between the two and giving more control to the university over the fraternity.

What are the benefits of an on-campus fraternity house?

Close to Campus Events: Being on campus gives members easy access to academic buildings, libraries, dining halls, and other university facilities. This proximity can be convenient for members, especially in terms of attending classes and participating in campus events.

University Resources and Support: Access to university resources such as counseling services, academic support, and health facilities. The university may also provide guidance and assistance in managing the house and organizing events. It’s important to discuss with your campus about ways they can help.

Compliance with Standards and Regulations: Universities typically ensure that fraternity houses comply with various safety, health, and building codes. This oversight can provide a safer living environment for members and guests.

Simplified Logistics: Dealing with utilities, maintenance, and other logistical aspects can be simpler, as these are often managed by the university, reducing the administrative burden on fraternity members.

2. Off-Campus Fraternity Houses

What is an off-campus fraternity house?

An off-campus fraternity house is a residence that is not located on university property but is used by a fraternity for housing its members and conducting its activities. These houses are typically situated near a college or university campus but are under the ownership or control of the fraternity itself or a related entity, such as a housing corporation, alumni of the fraternity, or a private landlord.

Differences in management and regulation compared to on-campus housing

Off-campus fraternity houses must adhere to local and state laws, including zoning, health and safety codes, and housing standards. It’s imperative to check your local zoning codes and regulations while preparing an off-campus housing plan. Off-campus fraternity houses are less directly subject to university rules, but still need to consider the broader implications of their conduct as it relates to their relationship with the university. The fraternity is responsible for collecting payment, maintenance, risk management, and setting policies to ensure standards are being upkept.

What are the benefits of an off-campus fraternity house?

Increased Autonomy: Off-campus fraternity houses provide more autonomy to the organization. They have direct control over the property, allowing them to make decisions without direct oversight from the university.

Customization and Personalization: Off-campus houses can be customized to fit the needs of the chapter, such as room configurations, décor, and amenities that reflect the organization’s identity and traditions.

Less Restrictions: There are typically fewer restrictions on activities and policies, such as guest policies, event types, and noise levels, compared to on-campus housing, which is governed by university rules.

Cost Management: Fraternities may have more control over financial aspects, including rent, utilities, and maintenance costs. This can sometimes result in more cost-effective living arrangements for members.

Capacity and Availability: Off-campus houses might offer more living space or be able to accommodate more members than on-campus housing, which can be limited in size and availability.

Privacy and Independence: Members often enjoy greater privacy and a sense of independence, living away from the direct oversight and busy environment of campus life.

Long Term Investment: Owning or leasing an off-campus property can be seen as a long-term investment for the fraternity, providing financial benefits and stability over time.

Management and Governance

1. Fraternity Housing Corporations

What is a fraternity housing corporation?

A fraternity housing corporation is a specialized entity, often composed of fraternity alumni, that manages the real estate and property needs of a fraternity. Its primary responsibilities include owning, maintaining, and financially managing fraternity houses. These corporations ensure that the properties are safe, compliant with laws and regulations, and financially viable. Generally, a house corporation will seek tax-exempt status under Section 501©(7) of the Internal Revenue Code. If you are interested in learning more about housing corporations, read our post What is a fraternity housing corporation?.

What are the responsibilities of a housing corporation?

Housing corporations are in charge of owning and managing the property, ensuring it is well-kept and safe for members to live in. Financially, these corporations manage the house's budget, handling expenses like bills and collecting rent from members. Sometimes, if it's better for the fraternity, the housing corporation might even lease the house to another fraternity, managing all the details of that lease. They also take care of any repairs or upgrades the house needs, keeping it in good shape and up to date. Beyond just looking after the house, housing corporations also work with the university and the local community, making sure the fraternity is a good neighbor and stays connected with campus life. This role is all about making sure the fraternity house is a great place to live and that it fits well into the broader college and local community.

2. Student Leadership and Housing

Involvement of fraternity members in house management

Fraternity members often take on roles such as house manager, treasurer, or other committee positions, where they are responsible for day-to-day operations like ensuring cleanliness, overseeing minor repairs, and managing living arrangements. They also participate in decision-making processes related to house policies, budgeting, and event planning.

What are the responsibilities of a fraternity house manager?

Fraternity house managers are in charge of making sure everything in the house is working correctly, like fixing broken items and scheduling regular check-ups for things like heating or plumbing. They also have to make sure the house stays clean and organized, which might mean setting up cleaning schedules or making sure everyone does their part. It's their job to enforce the house rules, making sure noise levels and other house policies are followed by everyone. If there's ever an emergency, like a power outage or something breaking suddenly, they're the go-to person to handle it and get help if needed. They also keep track of all inventory in the house, like furniture and supplies, to make sure nothing gets lost or broken. If there are any issues or disagreements about living in the house, the house manager is responsible for resolving and mitigating them. The house manager is the key person who makes sure everything in the fraternity house runs smoothly and everyone has a good, safe place to live.

Financial Aspects of Fraternity Housing

1. Funding and Expenses

How are fraternity houses funded?

Fraternity houses are funded through a combination of sources, each playing a critical role in ensuring that the house is financially sustainable and well-maintained.

Member Dues and Fees: One of the primary sources of funding for fraternity houses comes from the dues and fees paid by fraternity members. These dues often include a specific portion allocated for housing expenses, which can cover costs related to maintenance, utilities, and improvements.

Rent Payments: Members who live in the fraternity house usually pay rent. This rent is a significant source of income for the house, helping to cover the costs of upkeep, mortgage payments (if applicable), and other housing-related expenses.

Alumni Contributions: Alumni of the fraternity often contribute financially to the house. These contributions can come in the form of donations, fundraising efforts, or endowments specifically earmarked for housing. Alumni donations can be a vital source of funds for major renovations, expansions, or emergency repairs. By utilizing a platform such as MyGreek, you can simplify soliciting alumni donations.

Fundraising Events: Fraternities sometimes organize fundraising events specifically to support their housing needs. These events can include alumni dinners, charity events, or other social gatherings where funds are raised for the house.

Loans and Mortgages: If a fraternity buys a property or undertakes significant renovations, they may finance these through loans or mortgages. These financial instruments need to be paid back over time, typically through the income generated from member dues and rent.

University Support: In some cases, universities may provide financial support or subsidies for fraternity housing, especially if the house is located on campus. This support can come in various forms, including reduced rent costs or grants for specific purposes.

Investment Income: If a fraternity has investments or an endowment fund, the income generated from these sources can also contribute to the funding of the house. This is more common in older, well-established fraternities with significant alumni networks.

Housing Corporations: Fraternity housing corporations, which are often responsible for managing the property, may also engage in their own fundraising or investment activities to support the house's financial needs.

What expenses are associated with managing a fraternity house?

Fraternity housing comes with associated expenses such as maintenance and repairs, insurance, utilities, taxes and mortgage payments, cleaning services, event hosting, and renovations/improvements. It’s important to work with the housing corporation treasurer as well as the fraternity treasurer to ensure financial ends are being met.

2. Rent and Fees

What is the structure of rent and housing fees for members?

The structure of rent and housing fees for fraternity members can vary depending on several factors, such as the location of the house, the size of the fraternity, and the amenities offered. Fees typically include rent payments, housing fees for non-residents, meal plans, and security deposits. Fees are typically charged on a payment schedule, such as a per-month basis.

How do housing fees contribute to the fraternity's budget?

The fees collected from fraternity members, including rent and housing fees, are a primary source of income that supports various aspects of fraternity operations and maintenance.

Living in a Fraternity House

1. The Experience

What is it like to live in a fraternity house?

Living in a fraternity house puts your right in the middle of the action. From social events to brotherhood and camaraderie, it’s all just a few steps away. It provides for a lot of interaction between members and enhances the college life experience.

What are the benefits of living in a fraternity house?

Living in a fraternity house offers a unique and enriching college experience, highlighted by a strong sense of community and brotherhood. Residents enjoy numerous social opportunities, from parties to networking events, fostering lasting friendships and connections. The environment is conducive to personal development, with various leadership roles available, encouraging skills in management and teamwork. Academic support is another key benefit, as members often participate in study groups and share resources. Conveniently located near or on campus, fraternity houses provide easy access to academic facilities, and often at a more cost-effective rate compared to other housing options. Additionally, living in a fraternity house opens up opportunities for alumni networking, which can be invaluable for future career paths. The experience is rounded out by involvement in philanthropic activities and access to cultural and recreational events, offering a well-balanced and memorable aspect of college life. However, this lifestyle also comes with the responsibility of adhering to the fraternity's rules and values, maintaining a respectful and safe living environment.

What are the challenges of living in a fraternity house?

Living in a fraternity house presents several challenges, including constant noise and distractions that can hinder study and relaxation, and limited privacy due to shared living spaces. Students often struggle to balance the active social life of fraternity events with their academic responsibilities, which is further complicated by the need to navigate group dynamics and potential conflicts within a diverse living community. Maintaining the cleanliness and upkeep of the house requires cooperative effort, which can be inconsistent among members. Adhering to fraternity rules and standards, while also dealing with peer pressure, particularly regarding lifestyle choices like alcohol consumption, adds another layer of complexity. Residents also face limited flexibility compared to other housing options and might encounter stereotypes or misconceptions about Greek life. Additionally, there's a collective responsibility for shared spaces, which can lead to financial or disciplinary consequences for communal issues. These challenges necessitate strong time management, conflict resolution, and self-discipline skills for a positive living experience.

2. Community and Brotherhood

The role of housing in fostering fraternity community and brotherhood

The fraternity house plays a crucial role in fostering community and brotherhood, serving as more than just a living space but as a central hub for shared experiences and social interactions. Within its walls, members form strong camaraderie and lasting friendships through daily routines, special events, and traditional activities. Managing the house together encourages collaboration and teamwork, fostering a sense of responsibility and pride. This environment is ripe for personal and professional growth, as members take on various roles and responsibilities, building valuable life skills. The house also serves as a grounding point for emotional and academic support, with a built-in network of peers readily available. Additionally, it strengthens the fraternity’s traditions and historical identity, connecting current members with alumni and enhancing the overall sense of belonging and unity within the fraternity. Living in a fraternity house, thus, becomes an integral part of the fraternal experience, deeply enriching the bonds of brotherhood.


In conclusion, fraternity housing provides a central hub for members of a college fraternity, offering both living space and a venue for various activities. There are off-campus and on-campus fraternity houses, each offering their own benefits and challenges. There are different aspects of managing fraternity houses, but it takes teamwork and shared responsibility of those living in the house to make sure standards are met. Housing corporations typically oversee fraternity houses, and there are many ways to raise funds to maintain the house. Living in the fraternity house has it's benefits and challenges, but it is recommended to live in for at least 1 year.

Bennett Quigley
November 26, 2023