Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer
The program created by the Undergraduate Student Government to address issues like housing conditions and rent issues, is “not exactly anything new” for some landlords.
However, for USG President Taylor Stepp, the Off-Campus Development Task Force will focus on issues in the off-campus area “that need to be addressed.”
“Plain and simple, we have landlords that are taking advantage of students and operate in despicable practices,” Stepp said. “We are looking for ways to get in there and make sure they are being honest people with our students and running an honest business.”
The group of undergraduate students led by former USG President Nick Messenger will conduct interviews with students, parents and landlords over the next month to address safety and affordability issues off campus. Messenger said in a Nov. 28 interview with The Lantern that he will issue a comprehensive report of their findings by Feb. 1.
Stepp said lighting issues and pedestrian traffic safety will be looked at as well.
“We will certainly probably hear some other things, so we need to investigate or we may even reach out and see, ‘Well actually this wasn’t as big of a problem as we thought it was.’ That’s why we’re doing this,” Stepp said.
Off-campus real estate agencies, however, have seen programs like this in the past. Wayne Garland, owner of Buckeye Real Estate, said the overall motive of the task force is very well intentioned, but “not exactly anything new.”
Garland said he doesn’t see any downsides to the task force, but hopes it wasn’t created to “pump up their resume.”
“I would say that the students need to truly make themselves stakeholders and not just doing stuff to pump up their resume,” said Garland, who has owned Buckeye Real Estate for 19 years and has been affiliated with the company dating back to his college career at OSU.
After issuing the comprehensive report, the task force will develop “student development goals” to address any off-campus problems.
“These are things that we are researching to see if they’re problems, and then we have a policy action plan built into them if they are problems,” Stepp said.
For implementing these goals, Stepp said he hopes “all parties are interested in collaborating.”
“We are going to talk to these groups once we have recommendations,” Stepp said. “We’re going to see how we can work together, how we can partner and collaborate to make student housing more affordable.”
Garland said he would be willing to cooperate with the task force since he has worked with students and heard their opinions through his company.
“I have a lot of young people that work for me, so we always try to get input from them,” Garland said. “I’m not saying that everything I do is the right way to do it, so if there are things that need to be changed or modified that help us and the way we operate, I’m always open to it.”
Some students said the task force is good for the off-campus community.
Alex Reinhorn, a third-year in aviation management, said while he is happy with his off-campus apartment, some of his friends live in conditions that can definitely be improved.
Rachel Fox, a fourth-year in fashion and retail studies, agreed and said the program is a good way to protect students.
“I think it’s a good idea, especially with my rental company,” Fox said. “There have been hidden fees … so I think it’s a really good idea and it will help kind of protect students in the long-run.”