City watch: NU fails to provide adequate off-campus housing resources

Katie Park

A few weeks ago, I thought I was going to be kicked out of my apartment.

According to my landlord, the four people living in my two-bedroom apartment were in violation of a city occupancy ordinance that officials recently began enforcing. Under the municipal code, no more than three unrelated people can cohabit in a residence – a law that limits housing options for students hoping to minimize Evanston’s pricey rental rates.

And I know my apartment is not the only group of students affected by this law.

But about a week after my roommates and I were told one of us had to move out by the beginning of December, the city released a statement saying that students in violation of the ordinance would not be required to move out until the end of Spring Quarter. The city did a great service to students in recognizing and accommodating their needs, preventing students from being displaced just before final exams.

Although this decision shows that the city does in fact prioritize students’ welfare, it does not solve the long-term problem of off-campus life: Neither the city nor the University provides adequate housing resources for students.

Northwestern’s limited apartment-style dormitory options drive students away from campus. But saying goodbye to dorm life does not provide an effective solution for students, who are then tasked with finding an apartment, complying with little-known housing ordinances and, sometimes, negotiating with difficult landlords. For many students – students who have never lived independently before, have limited financial resources and are not always taken seriously as citizens – there is no obvious assistance with these problems.

Although the administration has recognized these needs with the creation of the Off-Campus Advisory Board, students will continue to navigate the convoluted network of city officials, landlords and fellow residents on their own until a clear-cut set of resources is provided to them.

As soon as Evanston officials expressed the need to crack down on over-occupied apartments, the University should have created an accessible base of information to help students determine their rights as residents and their available housing resources. When the city later announced it would not displace students until the end of the year, the University communicated that information to Northwestern community (my roommates and I would not have even known about this announcement had I not received city news releases due to this editor position).It is not the University’s responsibility to hold students’ hands as they set out into the real world. But the University should view students in the greater context of the city we live in, and that includes equipping students with the tools they need as members of the Evanston community.

City editor Katie Park is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected]