Last semester, Binghamton University’s Student Association (SA) was supposed to implement a housing advisory project created to promote housing literacy. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, funding for the program was frozen.
The project was proposed by the Sub-Committee for Student Housing of the Town-Gown Advisory Board (TGAB), a committee aiming to foster a relationship between the city of Binghamton and BU, in 2018.
Khaleel James, president of the SA and a senior double-majoring in economics and human development, wrote in an email that the project received a $20,000 grant from TGAB. A meeting was held with the city of Binghamton’s Code Enforcement Office at the beginning of February, but the funding was pulled.
“Just as they were about to get started with tabling … COVID-19 hit,” James wrote. “None of us predicted [COVID-19’s] impact. We hope to be able to restart the program, as we know it is needed and beneficial. We just don’t have money budgeted for it this year.”
The SA was notified that its funding was frozen during the summer after the SA’s budget was approved by SA Congress in the spring. According to James, the purpose of the project is to provide students with resources and information about off-campus housing.
“The project was established to better help students understand their off-campus living,” James wrote. “The purpose of the project was to better aid students who are moving off campus to know their rights when it comes to safe living conditions and building code enforcement.”
Devin Henry, a junior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, wrote that he is still living on campus because it was too difficult to find a place to live off campus on his own.
“Me and all of my roommates want to [live off campus], but when we began looking, we started way too late in the year, in February, when most places already had closed deals,” Henry wrote. “So, the quality was low and the prices were high. On top of that, we had no idea what we were doing since none of us had ever dealt with housing or leases before. We contacted many realtors and toured many houses, but when we got leases to read over, we didn’t know what any of it meant, what to look for in them or in the houses, apartments.”
Since Henry will be a senior in the fall, he might not be able to use the resources from the housing advisory project unless funding is acquired soon.
“Once it’s underway I would love to utilize it, but since me and all of my roommates are in our junior year, I don’t know if we’ll have the time or ability to, unfortunately,” Henry wrote. “I have faith in the SA that they will be able to get the information and resources needed to help students.”
Matthew Johnson, assistant director of the SA, wrote in an email that the loss of funding was unexpected and upsetting to those involved.
“Last year’s E-Board was very excited to get the project up and running to serve the students,” Johnson wrote. “It was an unfortunate surprise to learn that the funding was frozen when we did, especially as a common complaint of many off-campus residents is the safety of their leased residences. We are hopeful the University’s budget will stabilize soon so funding to this project can be restored as soon as possible.”
Ryan Long, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, wrote that he sees the benefits of the project and would use it if he wasn’t already living off campus.
“I think the SA housing advisory board would be a great idea,” Long wrote. “Living off campus could be a challenge for students if it’s their first time living alone and having to pay for their own expenses. One issue that could pose a problem for students, if they aren’t informed beforehand, is what their house or landlord includes and what you as the student tenant need to pay for. If I was a junior or sophomore looking for places to live off campus, I would definitely utilize this resource to learn more about what I am looking for.”
Without the housing advisory project, Johnson recommended that students should communicate their concerns with their landlord before utilizing other resources.
“To avoid unnecessary conflict or deterioration of landlord [and] tenant relationships, residents should always attempt to address the safety and maintenance issues with their landlord first,” Johnson wrote. “However, if students ever feel their housing is unsafe or noncompliant with building safety codes and/or the landlord fails to properly maintain the residence, they’re always able to report these issues directly to the city’s Code Enforcement Team.”
It is unknown when or if funding for this project will be reinstated.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Matthew Johnson was a professor of psychology, along with being assistant director of the SA. However, this is not true. Johnson is the director of the SA, but not a professor. The article has been updated to reflect this information. Pipe Dream regrets this error.