Challenges of Student Housing

Regardless of major, students face difficulties in finding safe, affordable housing while they are taking classes. These concerns weigh heavily, especially for students that do not live on campus.

College students have a stressful relationship with housing. This could be because of the fact that they are first time renters, it’s the first time signing a contract in general, and usually without their parents. All this can be overwhelming for college students, and possibly make them easy targets for exploitation.

In a town hall meeting with both college students and traditional community members, Oswego Mayor William Barlow said, “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for landlords… They can get away with taking advantage of college students… it’s the easiest way to make money.”

 

Rights as a tenant

It is important to know your rights as a tenant. New York posts it’s Tenants Rights online for renters to review the law regarding issues like the safety and habitability of the property. If students feel as if they are being treated unfairly they, “can always call… and get a free inspection of the property before they move in or even while they live there,” said Barlow.

 

Code Enforcement

When the landlord breaks these rules or the town’s set building codes, (insert Oswego’s Code Enforcement Document) the town or any member of the public can make a formal complaint through the Code Enforcement. If the landlord does not correct their issue, the town can issue a formal violation. This could result in a fine and even the owner’s renters permit being suspended

 

 

*This data shows individual complaints and violations of just four landlords (A,B,C,D) as they are filed in the Oswego County records. Often the violations were multiple issues on the same property with each issue having its’ own violation, the data does express this. The complaints were generally multiple issues under a single complaint for each property.

These violations and complaints are a part of everyday business for landlords. In the last 6 months, the City of Oswego has had 1092 complaints and 1623 violations. But with the complaints and violations, along with the price students pay for rent, some say they are being exploited said Richard Kolakowski, SUNY Oswego student.

“A lot of houses in Oswego are very rundown and they’re still being used to house college students for way for expensive than they should be. College students are forced into it because there’s no other option. The houses that are repaired or have money put into them, it’s usually a fake look on the house to make it seem better.”

 

Incentive to Improve Property

The property tax is what the owner must pay every year just for having the title in their name. This tax is based on the value of the property. For example, Landlord A will pay $2,567 in taxes on a $55,000 property in 2018. Even including taxes, the property would still be paid off in 2.5 years. The value of the property, or what it would sell for, is determined by each town’s assessor.

Every four-years, the town assessor will revalue each property. The property is also reassessed when the owners put it on the market. The assessor looks at the dimensions of the property, the number of rooms, the utilities. The assessor also considers any improvements or changes made to the property adjusts the value accordingly.

To make these improvements, the landlord must buy a building permit. (The price varies by town and by what the change is.) This can be anything from installing a new hot-water heater to installing a swimming pool.

Making improvements to a property increases its value and in turn, increases its taxes. So, if you’re not planning on selling and instead plan on renting to college students, it would not be advantageous to improve the property.

The current value of the property in the example is $55,000. In 2005, when the property was purchased by Landlord A it was still $55,000. This suggests there have not been any notable improvements made since 2005. In fact, the only recorded improvements made to the property are; a porch being put on the house in 1930, fixing and adding to that porch in 1980, and a garage being built in 1992.

Even if you take out the problem of college landlords, housing as a college student can still be difficult.

 

Commuters

Another subset of students at SUNY Oswego would be commuter students. These are students that generally commute from a location other than the campus or city of Oswego. They may be non-traditional students but are almost always residents of the local area. According to the SUNY Oswego website, students may be exempted from the requirement of living on campus their first two years of study if they are living with their parents within a 75-mile radius of the school, are 21 or above, married, have had their own Oswego area residence for at least 3 months before receiving an acceptance letter and some medical or dietary concerns.

For most students in the area, commuting is the cheapest way to attend college. This does not imply that commuting is cheap. For full-time in-state students, tuition is $3,435 a semester, plus $785 in fees. An estimated cost of books is $400 a semester, although this varies depending on major and class schedule. A commuter parking pass costs $64 a semester, or $20 per year for the Park and Ride option.

After these expenses, the costs vary widely. Commuter students need to account for the cost of a vehicle, repairs and routine maintenance. For a student commuting from Syracuse, gas will cost around $675 a semester. From Watertown, the cost is $900 a semester. It costs about $1,125 a semester to commute from Rochester and $198 a semester to drive from Fulton. This does not include the costs of getting to and from work or other obligations. It is also important to remember that many commuter students are only on campus two or three days a week (which reduces costs) and gas prices and mileage can vary. Commuters also face the concern of driving in inclement weather conditions, especially during the Spring semester.

Beyond costs, there are the more human elements of being a commuter student.

“I loved that I could have my own bedroom, I didn’t have to have a roommate and I saved some money commuting for the past few years,” said Tami Bullard, a 2018 graduate of SUNY Oswego who commuted from her parent’s Mexico home during college.

There were downsides to her commuting experience as well, especially when it comes to parking.
“I felt like I had to schedule myself super early between work and classes, like 8 a.m. classes, that way I could have a guaranteed parking spot,” said Bullard. “There were times I was late to class because I was trying to find a parking spot.” She later mentioned that “even as an employee, when I work the 1-9:30 p.m. shift I struggle to find a spot sometimes.”
As for completing class requirements, she said: “it was really difficult being on campus at 8 a.m. and having to meet at 7:30 p.m. for group projects because of all the people that lived on campus, it [was] just hard.”
Commuters also face issues connecting with the campus and making friends. Bullard said, “My first semester I really struggled to make friends, and if it wasn’t for the clubs and organizations, I joined I wouldn’t have had any friends.”

Many graduate students also commute to the campus. Katie Walther is a 2016 Oswego graduate who is taking classes during the summer to complete a Masters in Technology Education. As an undergraduate, she lived on-campus, then in an apartment on West Seneca Street. During the 2018 Summer Session, she decided to sleep in her vehicle the nights that she had classes to save on costs.

“I didn’t really have another option because I already have student loans, a 78-year-old grandmother to take care of ,a farm and a house and all the expenses that come with it, so things are tight [financially]” said Walther.
She was parking her car in a campus parking lot and sleeping there, taking showers at Planet Fitness.

“After the first week I was approached by a University Police (UP) officer who asked me what I was doing, and I explained the situation to her,” said Walther. “She told me that it was fine and I went back to bed.”

The next night, Walther said she was approached by two different UP officers.
“I explained my situation to them and what the other officer said, but they told me I couldn’t be there and do this, and I needed to be out by 3 a.m., so I went to Walmart [to sleep] which was really sketchy,” she said.

“The next day I went down to University Police, and they told me I needed to go to Culkin and talk to them so I went down there and had to meet with the people in charge of buildings and grounds,” she said. “That’s when they told me that there is a SUNY wide policy that no one can camp on their property and no one can camp out in their cars on their property.”

“I was basically told that the rule is mainly targeted toward homeless people, which is a real jerk move if you ask me,” said Walther. “They told me that they didn’t want homeless people or travelers camping out on their campus, because quote on quote, it’s too dangerous for the rest of the student body.”
“I told him that that means if you’re economically disadvantaged you’re screwed and that it was discrimination against economically disadvantaged students.” According to Walther, she was asked to explain her situation, where she stated that she can’t afford to live on campus and that finding a landlord who is willing to rent to somebody for less than three months is extremely difficult and expensive.

“The man then told me that I can’t sleep in my car because it’s unsafe. I told him that if somebody really wanted to break into my car, there’s [going to] be problems. Plus there are break-in and assaults on campus, so I honestly really don’t feel safe living on campus” said Walther.

Walther also felt the rule was hypocritical.

“The thing that gets me the most is they let truckers, who are delivering goods for them, park over by the field house and sleep there, but they wouldn’t let me do that,” she said one of the troopers that approached her told her. “I asked them why I couldn’t do that and they said [I couldn’t] because I was a student, so they are responsible for my safety.”

Walther ended up receive a spot in Funnelle Hall free of charge for the remainder of the summer session. She said this was because their policy required that students live on campus, and she says she thinks that she was enough of a pain that this was decided to be the best option.

“I felt I had absolutely no free will in this situation, and that’s what angered me the most,” said Walther. “I don’t know how I’m going to afford living on campus next summer since I really don’t have a choice.”

SUNY Oswego Student Profiles

The SUNY Oswego student profiles were conducted to get the students perspective on college housing , whether that be on campus, off campus, or commuter. We interviewed current students and two alumni of SUNY Oswego.

Name: Desire Pedrosa
Student Housing: Off campus house
Location: 10 minutes walk to campus

Desire pedrosa has lived off campus for almost two years now while attending SUNY and as a graduating senior she givers her perspective on college housing and what she prefers when it comes to living on or off campus.

Question 1: When(if) you lived on campus, what were some of the benefits? Cons?

Question 2:When (if) you lived off campus what were the pros and cons?

Question 3:Which form of student housing would you prefer ?

Question 4:What are your average expenses for the month on campus/off campus?

Name: Alaire Price
Student housing: Lakeside commons
Location: Commons (takes bus transportation provided by the commons).

The Lakeside Commons is the latest off campus housing attraction for SUNY Oswego students. Alaire price , junior at SUNY Oswego gives her perspective on living at the commons and the ease, expenses and comfortability of having her own *luxury apartment.

Question 1: When(if) you lived on campus, what were some of the benefits? Cons?
Question 2:When (if) you lived off campus what were the pros and cons?
Question 3:Which form of student housing would you prefer ?
Question 4:What are your average expenses for the month on campus?
Question 5:What were your average expense for the month off campus?

Lakeside Commons Apartment tour:

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