Kara Brandeisky, who wrote the best college newspaper article I ever read, has a piece up at Greater Greater Washington where she dissects the history of off-campus housing around Georgetown University with admirable depth and flair. I’ve got one particular thing I want to highlight, because she touches on a point I think a lot of commentary on town-gown relations in DC totally ignores. Namely: many of the landlords who rent to college students are not very nice people.
I say “not very nice” because I’m trying to avoid foul language in the name of contributing to a civil discourse and all that. From the student perspective, though, renting off-campus is often a repetitive exercise in foul language. Not many people want to rent to college students. When I started looking for a place away from AU this year, the phrase a lot of older friends used was “broken in.” Halfway decent houses get passed down between friends and among organizations because a landlord who was “broken in” is hard to find. And faced with that psychological barrier to market entry? A lot of greedy, standoffish, and outright abusive landlords have gobbled up market share.
Thing is, these landlords contribute to the exact problems which many neighbors (particular those around Georgetown, even more status-conscious than my neighbors in what the Washington City Paper calls the Mild Mild West) lament so often (and so loudly). They should be a common enemy for the advocates of both students and homeowners. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, we get passive-aggressive, dramatized arguments about campus plans. This is the kind of thing I’m ready to change – but looking at the history, “this” could take a while.