Students differ on Ohio State off-campus housing problems
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 24, 2013 20:03
One off-campus property owner feels that the 17 percent response rate from students for the Undergraduate Student Government’s recently published off-campus report might not be a valid representation of the community.
The report, which attempted to address off-campus housing issues like rent and living conditions, was sent to university administrators March 7 and made public on USG’s website Monday. It highlighted what it called areas of excellence such as building the community and improving housing infrastructure. The findings, however, were based on a low response of only 850 students and might misrepresent the off-campus area.
“Unfortunately, you don’t get a very good sampling when you only get 17 percent responses,” said Wayne Garland, owner of Buckeye Real Estate. “How valid can it truly be when your sampling size is that small?”
Ohio State students were asked to evaluate their housing experience in the off-campus area and to weigh in on their renting experience and quality of life.
Some within USG expected a better turnout as well, including President Taylor Stepp, who said he hopes the online report will generate more feedback about the off-campus area.
A student development goal presented in the report included creating investing more in OSU Votes, a voter registation iniative, requiring students to register off-campus addresses, and developing a neighbor-to-neighbor mentoring program. Stepp said the mentoring program was the most interesting point that needed to be addressed, since 52 percent of students couldn’t name more than two of their neighbors.
“Our students are disconnected when they live off campus,” Stepp said.
Other ways to connect students off-campus included creating an off-campus commons space. According to the report, 92.8 percent of students surveyed would use an off-campus commons space.
“I think that, that would be a huge step in the right direction as far as building some community because there’s not really a rallying point off campus,” Stepp said.
Whitney Sherrill, a second-year in chemical engineering, said that a common area would benefit students living off-campus.
“I think the off-campus commons area would be a really great idea,” Sherrill said. “I also think maybe making smaller ones throughout the community so that people can feel closer to their communities and make it a very close-knit situation.
However, others didn’t think a common space off campus would have an impact on student life.
“I don’t think it would be that useful. I think most people have their own schedules or are doing their own thing. Most of the time when they hang out in commons places on campus, it’s in-between classes. When people are done with classes, they go home and sleep. They don’t really do anything else,” said Katie Luciano, a third-year in animal science.
Working with landlords to achieve a 36-hour response rate to students having housing problems was another suggestion in the report, which showed that 21 percent of students said it took their landlords longer than 36 hours to respond.
The response rate might be tough to implement at first since different real estate agencies have their own policies, and some problems students have might be more important than others, Stepp said.
“I think it just depends more on the individual landlord and real estate agencies’ policies because they’re very diverse, and moving toward this university-approved landlord system that we want to see, that’s where we could start to address that,” Stepp said.
Luciano said 36 hours is still too long for some issues to be addressed.
“If you have a window broken or your front door is broken and they don’t respond for 36 hours, it’s a safety issue, but if it’s something little, 36 hours isn’t that long of a period of time,” she said.
Achieving a response rate to renter requests and improving infrastructure is difficult for some landlords because of the small amount of turnover time, Garland said. Buckeye Real Estate turns over roughly 700 apartments during a two-week period between leases.
“Sometimes you have to respond to the ones that are screaming the loudest, even though they may not need something as much as another unit, so it’s just part of the environment of dealing with the student housing where it is just on one cycle basically and one turnover period and so forth,” Garland said. “It does make it very difficult to make them perfect when you move in.”
Statistics from the survey showed the average housing quality was a 6.7 out of 10. The area identified by students as most dangerous was Fourth Street.
As far as the price of housing and parking, the average monthly rent per student was $505.78. Some students paid as much as $1,080 per year in parking, while some did not have to pay anything.
Despite these noted problems, the off-campus community has seen improvement over the years, and Stepp said starting the conversation of improving the area is in everyone’s best interest.
“We feel like over the past roughly 20 years we’ve made huge strides. Now, we’re not where we should be, and I found that you can complain and you can draw conclusions, but I found that the best way to accomplish mutually beneficial goals is to do so in a collaborative fashion,” Stepp said.