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The new websites will now explicitly show a rental property’s Certificate of Compliance expiration date on the Cornell listing site, and the new safety program site provides information on the safety features of any property in the City of Ithaca.

March 3, 2019

Updated Off-Campus Housing Websites Display Safety Information to Students

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Recent updates have been made both to Cornell’s Off-Campus Housing listing site and safety program site in order to make the search for off-campus housing safer and more user-friendly.

Updates now explicitly show a rental property’s Certificate of Compliance expiration date on the Cornell listing site. The new safety program site provides information on the safety features of any property in the City of Ithaca.

Given the overwhelming and often hasty process of searching for a place to live, assurances of safety can be very helpful for students in narrowing down the housing search and minimizing future problems students may face in the future when renting.

To provide such assurances, the Office of Off-Campus Housing and its Living Manager, Denise Thompson, set out to update its existing online off-campus housing resources with the goal of making the housing process safer, more informative and accessible to students.

“It can bring serious peace of mind to know that a certain place is safe through the database,” Shilpa Sadhasivam ’20 said. “Especially if it could check for safety items you might not notice right away if you are seeing an apartment during a showing or on your own.”

The Cornell-designed site features an interactive map and the the ability to sort and search for rental properties by price, bedroom, pet-friendliness, date available and location.

Thompson and the Office of Off-Campus Housing were also inspired to create and develop a safety program site, in addition to the listing site.

Students can now also use the recently-created safety program site to check if any rental property in the City of Ithaca has a COC, as well as inquire about a property’s other safety features.

On the inspiration for creating the site, Thompson said that “safety has always been a primary concern” and that Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and her office had worked to update the listing site, which allowed the creation of the new system. 

To develop the safety program site, Thompson first met with Mike Niechwiadowicz, director of Code Enforcement in the City of Ithaca Building Division.

“The purpose of these meetings with the building commissioner was to work together with the City of Ithaca and to collectively discuss what is important for and to identify categories of safety,” Thompson shared.

Once the safety categories were identified, Thompson met with Tony Salerno, IT Project Manager of the Off-Campus living safety program, and Salerno’s team in order to bring the project to life.

From there, information is available regarding the property’s fire protection, notification systems, emergency egress, applicable code, fire extinguishers, fire separations, resistant construction type, and property use. Expiration dates for all of these categories are available as well.

Thompson said that the advantage of utilizing the newly-created safety program site is its greater depth of information that it provides to users.

“When you look at the City of Ithaca site, you can see basic information that they display about Ithaca properties,” Thompson added, “But our site gives you so much more. We take information from the city database and make it user-friendly, to provide more in depth information when it comes to safety features about a property. We really wanted to give students accessible, factual data about properties.”

Samantha Moruzzi ’20 said that the updates would be “really helpful” and would allow her to “feel more confident going forward with an apartment search.”

Thompson explained that Cornell safety program site works with the City of Ithaca department site and that the information is linked from the latter to the former. The system is now automated and loads information about properties’ COC’s as new information from the city becomes available.

And the reach of the safety program site is wide: “as the safety program site is open to the public, it could be immensely useful not only for students,” Thompson noted, “but also for staff, community members, and landlords.”

Thompson says Off-Campus Housing is open to expanding the program, especially into municipalities outside the current scope, such as Cayuga Heights and the Town of Ithaca.