Flooding toilets. Kitchens that don’t work. Ithaca’s housing market, notorious for horror stories of terrible conditions at astronomical prices, has long been a headache for Cornellians and Ithaca residents alike. Soon, the laws policing unsound housing will get sharper teeth.
The sentence followed a guilty plea by Maximilien Reynolds ’19, in which he admitted that he had paid someone to purchase a rifle for him and had illegally possessed the rifle, a silencer and a makeshift bomb.
As the spring semester kicks into gear — and essays, problem sets and prelims become the first and foremost concerns for many students — freshmen will have another task that demands their attention: finding housing for next year. As Christian Baran noted in The Sun last semester, such a task quickly becomes formidable due to a dearth of not only information, but of good options, as evidenced by The Sun’s reporting on a student sleeping in Uris Library last semester due to his housing situation. These housing issues don’t just stop at the borders of Cornell’s campus, though. The housing market is warped and inhospitable to residents throughout the entirety of Ithaca. With under half of the University’s undergraduate students housed on campus, half of the city’s apartment market is occupied by students.
Conditions in Collegetown lately seem to echo a sentiment proclaimed by Jimmy McMillan, who ran for governor of New York in 2010: “The rent is too damn high.”
Humorous campaign slogan aside, this has become the mantra of Cornell students as well, as rent rates for apartments in Collegetown have increased substantially over the past several years. According to The Ithaca Times, in 2014, Ithaca was ranked 11th on The New York Times’ list of most expensive United States cities, just one spot behind the nation’s financial capital of New York. This accompanied a report released by the Urban Institute in 2015, which revealed that about 44 percent of American renters spent over 35 percent of their income on rent in 2010. The rent issue is a result of too many students searching for too few off-campus housing options. Over half Cornell’s 14,000 undergraduate students live off campus, and Cornell’s on-campus facilities cannot accommodate the demand for housing.
Correction appended. Today’s story on the high demand for large apartments in Collegetown underscores the need for substantial change in how Cornell does housing. It is not a sign of health that students feel compelled to sign leases well over a year before moving in — nor is it acceptable that many of those houses often exist in various states of perpetual disrepair. Cornell can and should do more to foster a better system of housing for upperclassmen, particularly in Collegetown. Yes, Cornell has begun to implement its Master Housing Plan, including the much-trumpeted North Campus expansion, but we are skeptical that those efforts will ease the pressure on Collegetown rentals.
Collegetown housing has students signing leases almost 16 months before residence. With the number of large houses decreasing, demand has increased, causing students to compete for the few available properties and sign their leases earlier, even for houses not in the best condition.