If you haven’t found housing for next year yet, you’re probably screwed.
My boyfriend and I have a long-running joke that the Ithaca housing market is so messed up you can sign a lease as friends and move in as significant others. It’s our little intro when people ask how we met. I was someone who was always adamant about not living with your boyfriend. We were just friends when we signed the lease, and I found myself moving in with a significant other this year and wondering how the hell I could’ve predicted this 9 months ago. Yep, the usual depressing Cornellian romance backstory.
You’re probably wondering how all of this is possible, given that it’s still September, and we’re talking about the next school year. I know I certainly did. But the freshmen on campus will quickly learn that if you haven’t signed, sealed and delivered a lease by the second month of school, you might as well grab a cardboard box and prepare to make camp by the gorge.
The Ithaca housing system works the same way the Cornell mentality does, apparently: Everything has to be done as quickly as possible, and everything is about competition. Some of us are already looking at apartments before the current tenants have moved in. It’s all too familiar — summer after freshman year, I was already planning housing for junior year. I just finished my freshman writing seminar, and you’re already asking me to plan for my 3000-level English class era? And I thought Hotelies were the only ones obsessed with real estate.
We found my current house in late November. It has three stories and beautiful wood paneling and a reasonable rent. I swear that’s the luckiest thing that’s ever happened to me. Really. Because apparently finding a home nine months early is a force of nature.
Of course, you can still find semi-decent places until winter break, and if you’re really really lucky, the following March. But the choices are limited, and frankly, not pleasant. We’ve all been there before — wading between garbage bags and beer bottles in a Collegetown house because you waited until November to decide the housing lottery “just isn’t worth it,” so now you’re stuck choosing between a basement home with a faint smell of laundry detergent or an apartment so far downtown it might as well be Binghamton.
My most baffling question was always, how the hell do you know who you want to live with a year from now? That’s assuming an impossible number of factors: a) I’ll still like the current roommate who just started showing symptoms of anti-dishwashing but I don’t know well enough yet to tell for sure, 2) I won’t develop an alter-ego and want to run off to a foreign country, or c) I won’t turn into the hermit I’m bound to become and decide to shut myself off in a studio, or d) anything that could possibly ever happen in the span of nine months, so basically everything.
Apparently, back to school checklists require picking your housemate for the next year before you even know if you want to ditch that semi-toxic friend group this year. That’s like asking us to start studying for the prelim early — it’s just not going to happen, and who knows what grade I’ll get anyway?
My point is, something needs to change — either the price range for rent needs to change or we just simply need more homes. By the third week of school, my friends are more stressed about housing than anything else that could occupy their minds. Simply put, there’s a growing demand, and the supply is overpriced. Hiking up prices simply because there’s a high demand from college students leaves an entire campus to fight for the few desirable homes at reasonable prices. Not everyone can afford those spanking new apartments in Collegetown. I don’t love Wings Over Ithaca enough to make a sacrifice like that.
I acknowledge there’s competition between landlords — it’s not any individual’s fault when there’s pressure from all sides and little housing to dole out. The city needs to reevaluate the housing system from the top down, and someone needs to crunch some numbers and realize there’s not nearly enough homes that are desirable for the current market of students. Whoever’s in charge, why don’t you get back to me with a plan early this time, instead of the other way around?