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EDITORIAL: Out of sight, out of mind: Rutgers disregards off-campus housing issues

From unresponsive landlords to high rents, off-campus students face many challenges

Many off-campus housing options are not ideal for Rutgers students, affecting them and the larger New Brunswick community.  – Photo by Dustin Niles

The off-campus housing search that many Rutgers students embark on is tricky, to say the least. After suffering through the experience of residence halls, many students wish to upgrade their living situation to apartments or live with a group of friends.

But when housing contracts for top on-campus picks, including the Sojourner Truth Apartments on the College Avenue campus and the Livingston Apartments, cost approximately $11,000 for a nine-month stay and $14,500 for a year, many students look to off-campus options.

When choosing reliable housing, many factors need to be considered, and it seems nearly impossible to fulfill all of them. 

It is rare to find a place off-campus that is well-furnished, reasonably priced, close to a bus stop and able to accommodate the number of students who want to live there. Students are often disappointed when they enter the off-campus housing search, thinking that it will be cheaper than room and board costs through the University, only to find that it is not guaranteed.

Landlords are allowed to increase rent for regulated and registered units by 5.5 percent for 2023, while past annual rent increases ranged from 2.5 to 2.8 percent, according to the Rent Control Office of New Brunswick. Rent prices also do not typically include additional expenses like utilities or WiFi.

Popular off-campus apartment options are also expensive. For example, all doubles at the Verve are more than $1,000 a month, and price options for singles cost approximately $1,300. Other off-campus apartment options are also considerably far from campus, including the SoCam 290 Apartments on George Street and the Standard apartment complex on New Street.

Even if there is a bus stop close to them, students may decide to walk home if minimal buses are running at night, which can present inconvenience and potential safety concerns.

Another common, problematic experience for students who live off-campus is dealing with unresponsive and untrustworthy landlords, prompting many to share said experiences on social media. A Rutgers student on Reddit revealed that their landlord imposed questionable additional fees, failed to return a security deposit to a previous tenant and neglected to repair and adequately upkeep the house, compelling renters to contact Rutgers University Student Legal Services (RUSLS).  

While the University does offer resources like RUSLS and Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships (OCLCP), Rutgers students clearly could use more support from the University regarding the off-campus housing search. 

Students seem to be left with two off-campus options: an absurdly expensive apartment or a cheaper house with an unreliable landlord.

It is important that students feel they can turn to Rutgers for general and legal support, and the University must better advertise its existing resources. For example, the OCLCP hosted a Housing Fair at the beginning of February in the College Avenue Student Center, but how many students actually knew about it?

Additionally, it would be helpful for Rutgers to provide perhaps a one-credit course or optional modules on finding off-campus housing options through common renting companies, like RULiving, and dealing with potential issues with landlords.

If Rutgers does not hold landlords accountable, student health and safety may be put at risk. As such, the University should focus on ensuring that off-campus housing is as safe as possible for its students.

In addition, it is extremely important to remember that the off-campus housing debacle affects not only Rutgers students but also the broader community of New Brunswick.

During a town hall meeting last month to address New Brunswick housing, Todd Wolfson, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies and vice president of the Rutgers American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, said, "Rutgers, in (its) vision of luxury housing, will have a gentrifying effect, in that it will push out long-term residents that are largely low-wage and largely people of color."

Wolfson also said that these issues might be exacerbated by the fact that the University owns much of New Brunswick's real estate.

Luxury housing options like the Verve or the Standard can increase anxiety for New Brunswick residents who fear that their own rent could increase as a result of the existence of these locations, even if they are primarily for students.

It is important to keep in mind that more expensive housing can attract more high-end businesses and restaurants, which could contribute to the rise in home values in the surrounding area, ultimately exacerbating feelings of dread around the possibility of displacement for current residents who may not be able to keep up with these increases.

Because there is evidence that validates these concerns, it is extremely important for Rutgers to be mindful of how the off-campus housing situation affects not just students but New Brunswick as a whole.

If these issues continue to go unresolved, students will be left with subpar housing options that may ultimately jeopardize their chance at a quality education while leaving the community of New Brunswick in a constant state of unease.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 155th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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