Sunday, April 14, 2013
10,000 Students as a Political Force on Rentals
The Western Front editorial board released this week an opinion piece entitled "Rental Licensing Is a Student Issue". [Click here to read the editorial in its entirety.] Two former editorial boards also wrote of their support for rental licensing in 2011 and 2012. See these editorials by clicking here. The present board of this student newspaper said:
"The complaint-based system doesn’t work. Tenants cannot be expected to have adequate knowledge of the building codes or the legal know-how to hold their landlords accountable. Without requiring rental licensing and mandatory inspections, there is nothing prompting landlords to keep their properties in safe and livable condition."
Students ought to know, partly from their experiences in renting in a town with a no-holds-barred rental market and partly from the the results of several student initiated surveys, one in 2011 and the other this past week. [These surveys can be found by clicking here and here.]
The editorial went on: "The rental licensing issue is a student issue. Knowing the duration of their stay will be brief and lacking a broad range of experiences to draw from, students are likely to grit their teeth and suffer through shoddy rental conditions. We deserve better."
Yes, students do deserve better and they are waking up to the fact that they have strength in numbers. Each year around April they take part in a 17,000 unit rental goat rope during which many of the 10,000 student renters play the part of the goat being roped into squalor by the city's landlords for the ensuing academic year.
Stephanie Kirk, a student journalist at the Western Front, also wrote this week a separate piece entitled "Students Remain Oblivious to Renter Rights". [Her piece can be found by clicking here]. The article highlights the results of the latest survey of students that demonstrate the shabby conditions under which students live and the often shabby way in which they are treated.
By virtue of their numbers and the already established interest groups on campus, students are in an excellent position to organize and to bring pressure on City Hall to create a program that will clean up rentals making them safe and healthy places to live. Councilman Jack Weiss is leading the Planning Committee of the City Council forward in creating an ordinance to ensure the health and safety of all renters in Bellingham. He ought to have our support because he knows very well, too, that that all renters deserve better.