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

Revamp Housing Resources

How would you like to commute to campus from Silver Spring, Md., every day? For those who do not mind living more than a few stone’s throws from campus, the Web site for the Office of Off-Campus Housing Resource Services has some listings that you may be interested in.

For those hoping to live closer to campus, you are on your own.

At the beginning of each school year, sophomores and juniors hastily sign leases and commit thousands of dollars to various landlords just to ensure that they have roofs over their heads for the following school year. Considering that Georgetown only guarantees two years of housing for undergraduate students, this institution provides virtually no helpful services to upperclassmen and graduate students hoping to live within walking distance of their classes.

The current OCHRS Web site has only a few listings near campus and provides few other useful resources for finding properties or getting in touch with local landlords who typically rent to students. A complete search of the database yielded only three residences within walking distance of Georgetown; all the other residences are in Maryland or Virginia. To secure a location, most students are forced to frantically network with other students already living off campus.

In the neighborhood with some of the priciest real estate in the District, students routinely enter into one-sided relationships with landlords that they later regret. Many students get pushed around by real-estate owners, hastily agree to leases and pay exorbitant application fees, largely because of a lack of accessible information. Furthermore, unless prospective tenants have contacted a property’s current inhabitants (who most likely have only lived in the residence for a few weeks, at most), they have no way of knowing what hidden problems the property has, and how cooperative its landlord may be.

Students have little leverage with real-estate owners, and no venue to forewarn other students of bad housing experiences or to recommend good ones. There are few safeguards to protect students against agreeing to unfortunate lease agreements.

OCHRS should help alleviate this anxiety by providing supportive tools for students searching for off-campus housing. A good start would be providing a comprehensive database of landlord and realtor contact information, along with detailed listings of at least most available properties near campus. The database would allow students to search for local residences without having to leave their room, alleviating the often painful search that students undergo when choosing where to live.

Georgetown needs to foster a healthy relationship between local landlords and those students on whom they depend for rent. Landlords need to be given more of an incentive to treat students fairly, and students need to be given more substantial resources for gathering information. If OCHRS compiled data on particular properties and landlords through a survey of current off-campus students, future tenants could benefit from the results. An easy-to-use database for students looking to add a roommate or sublet a property should also be available online.

This process would be particularly beneficial to students who study abroad during the fall semester. Unless they have a particularly helpful friend back on the Hilltop, these students are left almost completely in the dark as to their housing options. If the university helped provide a more comprehensive database of off-campus-housing information, those students would not find the housing search such an arduous task.

The university needs to be more involved in the off-campus housing hunt to help restore some power in the process to students. Without some degree of university involvement, many students will continue to make uninformed decisions in the chaotic rental market surrounding campus.

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