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Rental company offers alternative housing, internship credits

Binghamton University students are given a less costly option in downtown housing

RentBing, a recently formed rental company in Downtown Binghamton, will provide students with another living venue as well as an opportunity to get involved.

Alice Kweller, a graduate student studying accounting, recently bought property on Court, Gorgeous Washington and East Clinton Streets to convert them into student housing, some of which are already available for rent. What sets Kweller’s properties, and the management company RentBing, apart is the level of student involvement in the running and management of the properties.

Gurbaksh Bhullar, a senior majoring in economics, is the assistant property manager of RentBing. Bhullar is working with Laura O’Neill from the Career Development Center to increase student involvement in the property by creating a credit-bearing internship with RentBing for undergraduate students to use and expand upon the marketing skills they’re learning at BU.

The management is also trying to cater specifically to students with 10-month leases. With options starting at $600/month, Bhullar says RentBing is trying to distinguish themselves from other, more expensive Downtown housing options, which he called a “glorified dorm room.”

Alex Jaffe, who graduated from BU in 2012 with a degree in human development and is working on his master’s of public administration, was one of Kweller’s first tenants.

“I personally don’t love the hotel/dorm style that you get when you go to places like Hawley or Twin River Commons — they are all the same,” he said.

For students who aren’t paying for luxury student housing like Twin River Commons or 20 Hawley Street — which start at $820 and $845 per month respectively — the next best option Downtown is often what Bhullar calls “slum lord” housing.

“[RentBing is] an alternative to the abundance of neglected properties presently available,” Bhullar wrote in an email. “Additionally, we are responsive and available around the clock and value our business as it IS our business; we’re not absentee landlords with a few bedrooms scattered around; frankly, it’s in our best interest to care for our tenants.”

For tenants like Jaffe, this hands-on approach is beneficial for the kinds of needs students have. According to Jaffe, when his pipes froze because he and his roommate “stupidly turned off the heat before going home for winter break,” their landlord was there with space heaters within 30 minutes and stayed for hours until everything was working again. However, he said that the landlords weren’t overly invasive.

“Some people have those landlords that are showing their apartments without telling you, or just showing up,” Jaffe said, noting that Kweller “always gave us notice.”

Kweller, who grew up in Queens and went to Cornell University for her undergraduate degree, wrote in an email that she thinks the city of Binghamton is in the middle of an urban renewal.

“Whether students are aware of it or not they are actively contributing to the revitalization of the downtown area,” she wrote. “It is amazing to see young educated people walking the streets, shopping and contributing to the community.”

According to Bhullar, RentBing is improving its properties to make more available to students.

“We’re in the process of renovating all our units, with rapid progress being made daily,” he wrote.

Jaffe said he would recommend signing with RentBing to his friends.

”Everyone that comes over really loves our apartment and cannot believe the price that we pay for it,” Jaffe said.