CSG housing survey helps students find affordable off-campus housing

Wednesday, January 16, 2019 - 9:43pm

UM Central Student Government released a housing survey at their meeting in Pierpont Commons Tuesday evening.

UM Central Student Government released a housing survey at their meeting in Pierpont Commons Tuesday evening. Buy this photo
Darby Stipe/Daily

Central Student Government released a housing survey Tuesday evening in an effort to help alleviate the struggle of finding affordable off-campus housing. Over 2,000 students responded to the initial survey sent out and about 700 responding students fit the criterion of those living off-campus within the 2017-2018 academic year.

The idea for the survey was first conceived last year during the winter 2018 CSG campaign, when CSG party MVision created a portal where students could submit campaign ideas.

Public Policy senior Lauren Schandevel, co-founder of the Michigan Affordability and Advocacy Coalition, responded with the idea for a landlord report card.

“I actually got the idea from the last CSG assembly,” Schandevel said. “I met with them after their affordability guide came out and we discussed some potential projects for making campus more affordable. They mentioned that Ohio State put out a landlord report card every year and I thought it was a great idea. Then, when Daniel’s party was campaigning for CSG, their policy director reached out to me for suggestions and I relayed the information to him.”

CSG President Daniel Greene believes the report card empowers student voices in the off-campus housing process and provides a way to collect data, allowing students to be better informed in the decision making process.

“We haven’t had the data to substantiate the things that go on [yet],” Greene said. “Now there is an open incentive for housing companies to better treat students and reward those companies and individuals who treated our Michigan students as if they were adults.”

CSG  worked with the University administration to set a standard so no housing management company is reported on the guide without having at least five responses. Using the Ohio State University’s guide as a model, CSG doubled the amount of questions, including queries pertaining to demographic data and specific housing costs.

Engineering senior Sanjee Choudhuri, one of the main creators of the survey, wanted to find a way to make it more interactive and appealing to students. The team decided to add three interactive graphs linked to the CSG website.

“I was really interested in taking the PDF and putting it into a medium where students will want to read it and enjoy it,” Choudhuri said. “So I thought interactive infographics—done almost entirely through tableau graphs. In the end we wanted a medium where students could track the data, where they could tailor it to themselves and then share it. It’s simple, it's fun and there is no fluff. You can use it immediately and anyone you send the link to could figure out how to use it.”

The first interactive graph showcases a rent map of Ann Arbor properties listing the company that owns it, the rent price and the complete rating of the property out of 10.

The second infographic  lists data on a multitude of different property managers, ranking them on a scale of one to 10 overall. Those ranking the highest were Horvath Properties, Spaly Group, Zaragon Properties and Wessinger Properties. Those placing on the lower scale of the survey were Tree City Properties and Cribspot.

The final link is a bar chart composed of each of the sentiments poised on the original survey. By selecting which company listed, you can see the results on each of the questions. Questions include how quickly the landlords response to maintenance requests, the overall condition of the living space, the professionalism of the landlord and much more.

“In an ideal world this will be continued by future administration,” Greene said. “We are hoping that we will reopen the survey now that students understand it. We know when there is a new resource on campus that it is often too abstract for students at first. Now that we have the results on the website we are getting a lot of interest and clicks and we hope that this guide would help perpetuate the conversation and put more momentum toward addressing housing affordability in Ann Arbor and also just hold housing companies accountable, as they often exploit students.”