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Landlords criticize proposed 2-year residence hall plan

Caitlin Wasmundt / Lantern reporter

Some landlords for properties in off-campus areas surrounding Ohio State are taking issue with President E. Gordon Gee’s proposal to require students to live in on-campus dorms for their second-year. When Gee made this proposal, he wanted the requirement in place by 2012, but in a Feb. 6 meeting with The Lantern‘s editorial board, he said it wouldn’t be complete until 2015 or 2016.

Brian Grim, managing partner for University Manors, said he believes the current housing structure should remain as is.

“The off-campus, on-campus dynamic, it works, it works well,” he said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t believe that tampering with the dynamic that exists right now is smart at all.”

Campus Partners for Community Urban Redevelopment, an OSU affiliate formed in 1995 to help revitalize the University District, approached off-campus landlords in 2008 after initial discussion of the two-year dorm residence policy to conduct a study to better understand student residency in the off-campus area. The participating landlords funded the study, said Richard Talbott, president of Inn-Town Homes and Apartments.

Doug Aschenbach, president of Campus Partners, discussed the objectives of the study with The Lantern.

“(We wanted) to understand who was living off campus. How many sophomores, what the rents are, what the amenities are, why people choose or don’t choose to live off campus,” Aschenbach said. “(The study) really helped inventory and quantify the number of sophomores off campus. It concluded that there were about 3,000 sophomores living in the off-campus neighborhoods.”

The 3,000 sophomores is estimated to be about 20 percent of all OSU students living in the off-campus area, according to the study.

There is some concern as to what will happen to the number of houses students rent each year if sophomores can no longer live off campus, Aschenbach said.

Wayne Garland, president of Buckeye Real Estate, said in an email that many landlords would rent vacant residencies to non-students, if necessary.

“The reality is you need to have an income stream to pay mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities, etc., so I’m fairly certain most owners would/will rent their properties to nontraditional residents,” he said in the email. “This could lead to more social issues and a deterioration of some areas and the lack of lenders willing to make loans for reinvestment into our community. A series of dominoes falling in the wrong direction.”

Talbott also said the University District will be worse off if students are occupying less off-campus residencies.

“The people that used to live in (off-campus houses) that the students have displaced, you don’t want to live next to them,” he said. “The people that move into those houses will be poorer and there’ll be more crime, then it’ll be a cycle feeding itself downhill.”

Daniel Livshin, a first-year in chemical engineering, said he would not want to live next to non-students and thought crime could increase.

“I feel like it would be a little less safe, just from the amount of crime that would transfer over (into the University District),” he said.

Gee, in a Feb. 6 meeting with The Lantern, said he is concerned about vacancies but sees benefits for students who live in the off-campus area, as landlords will be forced to provide quality housing in order to attract tenants.

“There are some places that I would not allow people to live if I were absolutely in charge. The good landlords are going to thrive. Those who should be squeezed out should be squeezed out, and they will be,” he said. “And we have a lot of quality landlords that do a wonderful job and we need to support them and we will.”

Grim agreed the requirement would cause landlords to improve their properties, but said there are more effective ways to do this.

“I’m all for university-accredited housing, where the university puts its rubber stamp on a particular building to give their seal of approval. They should contact the city so the city can come through the place and write up the things that need to be fixed,” he said. “I think the damage caused by having the sophomores live on campus is far worse than squeezing the slumlords out.”

Garland said in an email that most of the unaccommodating landlords have already been “squeezed out” in the last 20 years, and he would prefer to compete with university housing on equal ground.

“I say, let the university operate under the same competitive situation and if their product is a more appealing option it will be selected,” he said. “Just don’t (assume) something is better without true knowledge, nor because you may have the power to mandate selection of your product.”

OSU administrators and some landlords disagree on more than just vacancy issues and “slumlord” elimination. They hold conflicting viewpoints on the social benefits of living on-campus versus off-campus.

Students academically benefit from living in the dorms or their first and second years, according to the Office of Student Life. Student Life said there is evidence that students who live on campus for two years graduate more quickly and at higher rates than those who live on campus for only one year.

The landlord study found opposing results, as students living off-campus held, on average, a higher GPA than students living on-campus, Talbott said.

“(Gee) has mentioned that there are studies, but none of them have ever been published or shown. I don’t want to go so far as to say they’re wrong,” he said. “I know what our study said.”

Most students prefer to live off campus their second year, according to the landlord study.

Harris Lipton, a first-year in business, said he is looking forward to moving out of the dorms and into the off-campus neighborhood next year. He noted some positives of the move.

“Having a car is definitely a big benefit, plus privacy, not having to share a bathroom with 30 other guys,” he said. “It’s cheaper, more living space.”

OSU residential rates are between $1,765 and $2,420 per quarter, according to urds.osu.edu.

Livshin said he is also excited to have more personal space.

“I definitely look forward to having my own room, a lot more space being on my own,” he said. “I can schedule when I want to get up, when I want to start my day. Basically, being able to do whatever I want when I want.”

However, Lipton said he does believe living in the dorms for the first year at the university is a good thing.

“It’s nice having random kids you’ve never met before,” he said. “You can meet new people and that’s good.”

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