Touring some of the worn down houses in Muncie opened my eyes to how difficult it can be to find an affordable house with an average standard of living.
As I walked up the creaky steps behind the young 30-something man, I made the mistake of looking down.
I could see straight through the slats in the worn-down wooden steps to the ground below the duplex created out of a two-story home. It was late fall, and I couldn’t imagine trudging up those steps in the wintertime when they would become covered in ice.
“I would never bring my grandma here,” one of my potential roommates said as she followed behind me up the stairs.
At the time, I was a sophomore living in the luxury of Kinghorn Hall, but I was ready for a home of my own. I wanted to be able to cook in my own kitchen without walking down a long corridor and sharing with strangers. Even in a nicely constructed dorm, I felt cramped. I was ready to have more room.
But this place wasn’t going to be it. The guy knocked on the door, which was opened by another college student. Even after stepping out of the chilly air, the sticky heat I felt in the home made me want to leave immediately. The lighting was so poor everything seemed to have a pink glow.
We passed by a resident stirring her meal in a pot within a kitchen barely big enough for two people. What landlord doesn’t tell his residents people would be viewing it? I thought. Now I understood the low $200 rent.
At Ball State University, 59 percent of students live in off-campus housing. For those of us who do, the challenges begin with the search for our new home. We have to evaluate the quality of the landlords we encounter, weigh the benefits of buying a home or renting an apartment, and find people we can tolerate living with. We have to hope that our homes will remain secure when we’re gone for long breaks.
Suddenly, living off-campus doesn’t feel so safe.
Later, my friends and I visited another home rented by the same landlord. The scratched up floors, cracking linoleum kitchen floor, and outdated appliances, were greatly unappealing, but nothing I didn’t expect. After all, what could I expect from places rented to college students?
I returned to Kinghorn with my friends, feeling as though no nice properties remained for rent near campus. We scoured the newspaper’s classified section, we scanned company’s websites.
When we finally found the house we would live in, the landlord stood in the kitchen with us as he explained what signing a lease was like, what he expected in rent and utilities, and what he would have his team do to fix any problems with the house.
I’ve lived there for two years now, and I’ve never regretted my choice to move off-campus. It’s not perfect, we have a shaky stair banister, a flooding basement, and a smoke detector that doesn’t work. There have been days when I’ve woken to a freezing house because my heater wasn’t working. There have been days when I’ve called my landlord to fix things that have broken.
It’s those days when I miss my RA.
My story isn’t all that uncommon. Many students will have their own stories of bad roommates, worries over affordable housing, or problems with landlords. This week, Ball Bearings takes a look at how the living conditions students experience on-campus and off effect them.