GW should expand its off-campus housing resources

The process to find off-campus housing in Foggy Bottom can be overwhelming and exhausting. But it doesn’t have to be.

Off-campus housing is often less expensive than the on-campus alternative, which leads many students to seek housing anywhere but GW’s residence halls once they become seniors or are granted an exemption their junior year. Having just gone through the process myself, I realize that navigating the housing process is more difficult than one might think. To alleviate stress that students feel trying to find off campus housing, GW should publicize and expand its existing resources for off-campus students.

As a part of the Division for Student Affairs, the Office of Off-Campus Student Affairs strives to “extend community building” and educate students on how to “become active and responsible members in their surrounding communities.” With this in mind, administrators release a yearly guide with the District’s guidelines and a directory of resources for tenant responsibility and safety, with a disclaimer that GW does not endorse any property or give legal advice. They also host an annual housing fair with vendors publicizing apartments, furniture, cable and storage. Additionally, the OCSA maintains a housing website in partnership with Apartments.com, featuring property listings in the area and a roommate finder.

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These initiatives strive to build an off-campus community, but they are not adequately publicized to the student body. Since the University does not guarantee housing for seniors, they should spread the word by emailing juniors about off-campus support when releasing information about on-campus housing applications. This email should include the link to the OCSA website and a synopsis of the biggest takeaways in the guide.

Moreover, it would be beneficial for both the University and its students to expand the existing website. As of now, the website solely features apartments for rent posted by apartment owners or managers. Finding students to post subleases and furniture listings could help students easily be put in touch with housing resources that meet their needs.

As a part-time student, I could not live on campus this semester because housing requires students to be registered for a minimum of 12 credit hours to live in residence halls. And as a senior graduating in December with open plans after graduation, I preferred a more flexible alternative to committing to a 12-month lease. With a shorter term lease, it also made more sense for me to find a furnished space.

Currently, this search for subleases and rooms for rent is dominated by Facebook groups, either GW specific ones or greater Washingtonian groups. Here, students can list or search for apartments for rent, subleases, furniture to sell or buy, and look for roommates. Students can typically find what they are looking for using these resources, but it requires a considerable amount of time to sift through this large volume of posts. This process is hard to navigate and can be quite overwhelming and lonely. For added perspective, when someone posts about a newly-renovated place in a prime location in the overall D.C. group, there are close to a hundred comments declaring interest, making it difficult to secure high interest spaces.

GW can use its existing platform to create an interface that acts as a one-stop shop for housing assistance by adding components like subleases and nearby furniture for sale. These tabs would correspond to a platform in which students can personally list what they have available. Moreover, by publicising the resources OCSA provides through the emails to juniors, more people can take advantage of the roommates tab.

Another way GW can expand campus resources for the off-campus student body is by hiring an off-campus coordinator to support students in the search process. Just as CLRE hires area coordinators for on-campus housing, the office could add an off-campus coordinator to assist in students’ pursuit of off-campus housing and provide support throughout the year. This would alleviate some of the stress of transitioning to independent housing and prepare students for their living situations after graduation.

Adding these features would streamline the process and guide students in their housing search, as well as facilitate students’ desire for community. While I recognize that the housing search can help students in their process to become adults, GW can do more to offer some guidance in the matter. By including subleases and furniture components to the housing website, hiring an off-campus coordinator and notifying juniors of all these resources, students will face one less barrier when looking for housing. These increased support avenues can better prepare us for the future.

Shir Levy, a senior majoring in international affairs and economics, is an opinions writer.

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