It’s the house hunting time of year again, folks. For first-timers and the experienced alike, this process is stressful and can lead to breakdowns, damaged friendships and, perhaps worst of all, a shitty living arrangement. But one thing is clear through all the chaos: Just get me off campus. So where should we be living? I’m here to try to get you to ignore the pull of the “luxury” apartments of 20 Hawley Street and Twin River Commons, and get a real place Downtown.
Price is obviously the biggest disadvantage to the luxury living. Rent starts at $810 for Twin River and $795 for 20 Hawley, maxing out at over $1000. Yes, this is per month. Leases are for 12 months, so that’s between $9,500 and $12,000 per year. This doesn’t include food, parking, gas or any other of the myriad hidden expenses you end up paying when you live off campus. But for so many of the rich Long Island natives who milk the teat of their daddy’s high-paying New York City job (of whom I am a proud member), price is about as much of a factor as whether or not Twin River has low-flush toilets.
Part of going to college involves having experiences that will teach you how to deal with the real world. These apartment complexes are glorified dorms. No one living there gets the experience of having to deal with a landlord, fix your own minor household problems, install an AC or find street parking because your driveway is one car wide. As stupid freshmen and just slightly less stupid sophomores, we need to be pampered in dorms. We need a middle-aged woman to clean our bathroom because that’s what we were used to at home. But when junior year comes, the prospect of being thrown out alone on the streets with a worthless degree looms not so far ahead. At some point in your life you will be dealing with monthly utility payments and hot water problems. College is the best time to start to learn how to deal with these issues.
One of the duties of a student in a small, struggling city like Binghamton is to take ownership of the city and leave it a better place than before you came. Giving your money to big, national real estate and development companies doesn’t do nearly as much economic good as supporting local homeowners who are renting out their houses. Yes, real estate companies own many of the houses and apartments, but they are local businesses. Alfred Weissmann Real Estate, Inc. (20 Hawley) is located in Rye, N.Y., and the Newman Development Group (University Plaza and Twin River) has offices and property in three states: New York, Pennsylvania and California. That’s not local.
Another problem often raised with non-luxury Downtown housing is safety. I know not everyone feels safe walking all the way down Seminary Avenue at 2 a.m., but neither I nor any of my friends of either gender has ever had a problem walking home late at night. There are definitely sketchy people in the area, but after living Downtown for a while you get the idea that they don’t mess with students. The police have an incentive to keep students safer than normal residents. Without a safe Downtown, no one will live there and the economy will suffer. Also, as the recent fire in 20 Hawley has shown, the luxury apartments aren’t danger-free.
It will take about 15 years after graduation for the luckiest of us to be able to afford apartments or homes at the level of luxury that 20 Hawley and Twin River boast. The hard truth is that recent college graduates don’t live like kings and queens. They scrape by, sharing shitty apartments with too many people and not enough hot water. Coddling students as juniors and seniors is going to send them into the world unprepared. We are already going into our careers with degrees that don’t prepare us for what lies ahead. Let’s try and have some control over our lives during those hard first years out of school.