October 6, 2014

EDITORIAL: Reforming the City’s Failed Housing Laws

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Last week, more than 150 students camped outside the headquarters of the Ithaca Renting Company in order to secure leases for Collegetown apartments for the following academic year.  In the spring of 2013, the City of Ithaca attempted to alleviate the intense pressure that this annual housing rush places on students by lengthening the process of signing lease agreements. It sought to do so by requiring landlords to give their tenants two months notice before showing their residences to potential renters, signing lease agreements with future renters or requiring them to renew their leases. Unsurprisingly, the goals of the policy changes have failed to materialize. We at The Sun believe that this situation ought to be addressed with more comprehensive reforms to local housing policy that are fair to both tenants and landlords.

The annual housing rush benefits landlords while disadvantaging tenants by forcing students to make premature, uninformed housing commitments a year in advance of move-in. Thus, the rectification of the situation is of crucial interest to the University community, and we applaud the City of Ithaca’s attempts to address it by working to eliminate heated competition in the local housing market. However, the city has undermined its own attempts to halt the annual housing rush by failing to prohibit the signing of lease agreements at the beginning of the academic year. Further, the city has unwisely facilitated the circumvention of the 60-day notice window by permitting its mutual waiving by tenants and landlords.

We at The Sun call for the codified prohibition of notice waivers and early-year housing agreements, which are all too often ill-advised. Such measures are indispensable to the resolution of the Collegetown housing crisis. Further, we encourage the city to develop additional, tenant-friendly leasing guidelines. This, alongside residential development projects in the area, which we expressed our support for in an editorial Monday, has the potential to make the Collegetown housing market fairer and more sustainable.