I spent the entirety of my summer in a veritable pigsty. After four months of living in an apartment with a roach problem, an ant infestation and a general lack of cleanliness, I’m nearing the end of my patience with student housing. As new Zaragon copycat apartments appear, the state of living options for those without the $1,200-plus-a-month allowance seems to disappear. It’s almost as if landlords have given up — why pretend your crappy building is a four-star, amenity-rich opportunity when you can just throw up a dilapidated sign offering “$600 a month!”?
I’m not expecting luxury here — we’re college kids. We’re supposed to live off of mac and cheese, take cold showers and learn how to avoid that creaky stair when we’re sneaking a “friend” in at 3 a.m. I can even live with a basement laundry room that recalls bad childhood nightmares of “The Shining.” I can’t, however, justify an entire complex without locks on windows that lead straight into bedrooms from fire escapes. I can’t explain away broken glass, shattered lights or trash scattered in hallways. With only days left on my lease, I can’t imagine living here one day longer.
The question I’ve been struggling with all summer is simple: where is the in-between? Why is there such a large disparity between decent living and housing that may rival the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in? I don’t need my apartment furnished by Three Chairs Co., with a rooftop grill and hot tub or granite counter tops — all of which are boasted by Landmark. I’m simply asking for a clean living space with reasonable pricing and responsible landlords.
The entire process of finding housing would benefit from renovation. Right now, finding housing is a matter of knowing the right people, namely, those with the nicest houses and locations and hoping they’ll set you up with the landlord. It’s 5 a.m. lease signings after nights spent in line, hoping that you’ll be the first to glide your pen across the paper that will probably still only entitle you to coin laundry and leaky ceilings. I spoke with a rental manager at what would be considered a more sought out apartment complex in town — though mainly inhabited by grad students — and she expressed a similar frustration. The apartments she manages failed inspection the first time for all requirements. Things like “pin locks installed on double hung windows that are readily accessible” and “…light fixtures function properly and free of damage” are listed on the Ann Arbor “Rental Housing Pre-Inspection Checklist” she had to pass. Yet my building is in clear violation of six, by my last count. Hers? Failed.
Even dorms are restricting access to their rooms — as the University accepts a larger pool of incoming freshman and closes dormitories for renovation, so shrinks the availability of University sponsored housing to current students. Capped off by the new student housing policy that states that students with fewer total credit hours have first access to dorms, many have been left to scour Craigslist advertising, “41 y-o male looking for two female roommates, must be under 24 to inquire.”
This year, I’ll be moving into the Courtyards. Yes, on North Campus. No, I’m not an engineering student, nor of the art or architecture schools. I’m just unlucky in leases and late to the signing game. Yet, the closer I get to my move-in date, the more accepting I become of my exile. There, I’ll have neat, tidy rooms and hallways alike, backed by modest pricing and a full-time staff to aid in the case of a broken faucet or faulty dryer. I’m far-removed but well kept, a trade-off that I’m willing to make after four months of questionable filth and safety.
I’ll chalk these past weeks up to a learning experience — see what happens when you live with three college age boys in a shady apartment complex? See how you become indifferent to leaky ceilings, cracking linoleum and mildew stains? I’ll appreciate my new bedroom, rather than resenting its distance from campus. I’ll begin searching for apartments now for a school year that is still more than 13 months away. I’ve learned much, but I still would rather have been taught a lesson from the comfort of a room without ants on the floor. I think we all, even those of us without an extra grand to throw around, deserve that.
Erin Pavacik is an LSA junior.