Posted by Brookelynn Ashworth, ATLANTA, GA -- In my Social Problems class this semester we talked a lot about housing discrimination. While Fair Housing cases typically involve discrimination based on race and gender, one group the law doesn't necessarily protect is college students. In fact, last month in Durango, Colorado, college students requested that the city implement an anti-discrimination housing ordinance. As a college student in Atlanta on a limited budget, I have experienced difficulties in securing off-campus housing. Landlords ask for large security deposits citing previous damage to their properties by college students, others are reluctant to rent to us because of the potential for load music, abandoned pets, too many roommates etc. At the same time, I've discovered that there are rental property companies who cater exclusively to college students. The problem is that these companies promoting the benefits of "student living" may not always offer the nicest places to live.
When I moved into WestMar Student Lofts I was thrilled to find what I thought was a great place to live. The onsite tour and the pictures on the web convinced me that the place was ideal for student living -- with swimming pools, great common spaces, and a free shuttle bus to area campuses. The price seemed reasonable as well -- $549 for a standard room, plus a monthly utility bill that would never exceed $99, split between roommates. At first it seemed fine living there. But over the months I began to notice that stuff just didn't get fixed -- even the floor buttons in the elevator. Then a car was broken into in the 'secure' parking deck, with the 'get-away' car speeding past the security officers busily viewing the video monitors to spot any wrong doing. On our free, always overcrowded shuttle bus, students seemed to have increasing numbers of complaints. Curious, I logged on to apartmentratings.com. WestMar had looked so great to me when I first took the tour, I didn't even think of checking out these ratings. Too bad I didn't because there were very few positive ones for the complex. Comments included: “STAY AWAY FROM HERE,” “AVOID AT ALL COSTS,” “UNORGANIZED,” and “WESTMAR IS SCAMMING RESIDENTS.”
Then there was the issue of leaving for our three-week winter break. Even though my roommates and I would always make sure everything was unplugged and the air unit turned off, we would come back to an $88 utilities bill. But worse than that was the vandalism. Typically residents arrived back to see hallways with fixtures removed, walls with images of penises crudely etched into them, and the stench of urine and stale beer permeating these common spaces. It would take months before maintenance got around to cleaning up the mess as we continued to fork out the rent. But perhaps more disturbing was the fact that a lot of this needless damage was done by immature student residents who hung around over the break, giving the rest of us a bad name. Unfortunately, despite all the security cameras, no one ever got caught. Sometimes I think "no wonder landlords don't want to rent to students." Then I think about how places like WestMar take advantage of this sentiment. Most of us are responsible young people who just want a nice place to live, study, and hang out with our friends. I was lucky enough to find a much better apartment with my roommates owned by a really nice landlord. Unfortunately, however, because not all students are as lucky, WestMar will probably always be sucking more of us college students into renting their 'student living' money traps. Perhaps the college students in Durango, Colorado have the right idea.
Brookelynn Ashworth is a sophomore at Georgia State University, majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in History. She hopes to become a news reporter somewhere in the Southeast after she graduates. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org