Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Housing Reforms Issued

Recent student complaints about problems with off-campus housing provided by private landlords have led university officials to introduce more stringent requirements for advertising local residences to Georgetown students.

University officials announced in October that Georgetown’s official housing referral service Web site will now only post properties if its landlords provide documentation of a business license.

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs requires a rental property to pass a department safety inspection in order for its landlord to receive a business license and qualify for a place on the off-campus housing Web site.

“Students need to continue to hold landlords accountable for maintaining the property and responding to concerns,” Chuck VanSant, director of off-campus student life, said.

In response to the October death of Daniel Rigby (MSB ’05) in a townhouse fire and the subsequent evictions of numerous residents from houses found to be unsafe, the university’s attention to off-campus housing issues has risen above that of other nearby schools in the District, officials said.

“I think we’ve done a very good job over the past couple of months,” Margie Bryant, associate vice president of auxiliary services, said. “We have been working with students and parents, making the changes that wanted to be made. It’s been a very proactive experience.”

Bryant said the university continues to support the Web site’s goal of listing only those off-campus properties that adhere to license requirements.

“We try to arm students with information so that they know what to do, what to look for, and to know what’s most important,” she said. “We are constantly working to make changes and improvements accordingly.”

In response to the current housing situation, GUSA has actively been developing a comprehensive long-term housing policy proposal that will work for students in the coming years.

“It’s great to see that, in those instances when Georgetown is really doing some good work on behalf of students, the university is going to get proper credit for that,” Andy Asensio, the student association’s press secretary said during a meeting on Sunday.

VanSant also commented on the importance of safe off-campus housing for Georgetown students in light of recent events.

“Safe housing for students living . off-campus is very important to Georgetown,” he said. “Students need to demand safe and decent housing when landlords don’t uphold their responsibilities.”

Officials pointed out that nearby George Washington University has not had an off-campus housing office or Web site since its program’s funding was cut in the summer of 2003.

American University and Howard University maintain off-campus housing listings on their school Web sites, but the postings do not go through any screening process.

Housing administrators also commented on the challenge of ensuring off-campus residents’ safety while accommodating a housing schedule that was recently expedited by several months.

“When students made clear demands for increased diligence on the part of the university in protecting students living off-campus, the university reacted quickly and correctly,” Asensio said. “The housing office was really responsive to student requests to having housing eligibility determined earlier in the year, and we should give them their due as well.”

Karen Frank, vice president of facilities and student housing, said that the housing office is also responding to student requests by beginning to remove students from the waitlist for on-campus housing.

“As we go through the housing selection process, we are making predictions about how many students will participate,” she said. “We had to run a second round of apartment, townhouse and Copley suite selections to include those who signed up late and those who were called from the waitlist.”

Frank said that many students might have declined eligibility in order to live off-campus, while others might still be waiting for an opening off the waitlist to live on campus.

The housing office will notify people as early on as possible, and they will keep going down through the waitlist, keeping in mind the amount of sophomores and transfer students that will need housing, she said.

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