Off-campus housing fair, information sessions to address student housing concerns

The Office of Student Life will hold an Off-Campus Housing (OCH) Fair this Saturday afternoon to provide information to students about living off-campus, following a related information session held by the Sophomore Class Council last week.

A number of different officials, including city inspectors, the Tufts fire marshal, Tufts University Police Department officers and landlords from the area, will attend the event where they will provide information and resources for students looking at residences off-campus and their relatives, according to Yolanda King, director of Residential Life and Learning (ResLife). The fair will take place in South Hall from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. during Parents and Family Weekend.

King explained that the fair will provide information on subletting, as well as a safety checklist and samples of leases. Additionally, the fair will address the zoning ordinances in Medford and Somerville that restrict residences to having no more than three or four unrelated tenants respectively.

“If students cannot attend the OCH Fair, they can always meet with staff in the Residential Life office,” King told the Daily in an email.

In addition to the upcoming OCH fair, the Office of Student Life is hosting two off-campus and financial aid information sessions, one of which was held yesterday afternoon and the other which will take place Monday afternoon, according to the Student Life website.

The Sophomore Class Council, in partnership with ResLife, sponsored an Off-Campus Housing Information session on Oct. 6.

According to Vice President on the Sophomore Class Council Sam Usher, the information session was divided into three parts. During the first section, King and a representative from the Office of Community Relations gave students information about the search process, highlighting, for example, the importance of reading through the lease or making sure the house had no prior damage. The second part was led by students who currently live off campus, or who have been through the process in the past, and the final section was a question and answer session.

“This [information session] focused more on how to form a group, find a house…and dealing with landlords,” Usher told the Daily in an email.

Usher said the event also explained how students could find houses using sites such as JumpOffCampus and talking to the landlords of upperclassmen.

Although this session was specifically about off-campus housing, Usher said he wanted to also make the event about Greek housing and Special Interest Houses, both of which are housing options for rising juniors and seniors.

King said that both ResLife and the Office of Community Relations representatives attended the information session in order to address any questions or concerns from sophomores about the off-campus housing search process.

“We provided general information for looking for off-campus housing, which included the safety checklist, samples of a lease, a brochure created by former Tufts students on myths around looking for off-campus housing and information on the three and four person zoning ordinances for Medford and Somerville,King said. “This was a very successful event.”

Sophomore Paris Sanders said she has been struggling to find off-campus housing and to interact with landlords. Sanders said that she had been essentially guaranteed a deal for an off-campus residence for next year, but unbeknownst to her, the landlord she had been negotiating with had received an “under the table” deal that lost her the house. The landlord did, however, set up other house tours for Sanders, she added.

“Nobody warned me at all about the entire process except that you had to start early, so we did, or rather, thought we did,” Sanders wrote.

Other Boston-area schools have off-campus housing systems on their website. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has an off-campus housing database, and some schools also have a platform for landlords to advertise their houses. Harvard University, for example,  provides a listing of houses with a search option to filter based on price range, number of roommates and the number of bathrooms and bedrooms in apartments.

While Tufts has apartment listings on a spreadsheet on the ResLife website, Sanders believes the university could do a better job facilitating off-campus housing.  

“The process could be made easier by a database with addresses that are going to be vacant next year to make the process more equitable and transparent” Sanders wrote.