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Room for improvement

UChicago Apartments is a useful but underdeveloped tool.

Moving off campus will never be an easy process. There’s no getting around the drama of picking roommates, choosing whether to live near Treasure Island or Hyde Park Produce, and deciding if the convenience of living south of 55th Street is worth the rent. But for the more concrete dilemmas of the moving process—selecting a realtor, settling on a property— there’s UChicagoApartments.com, a Student Government-run (SG) web site focused on the Hyde Park rental market. The website’s concept and design are great, but there is work to be done before UChicago Apartments is as useful as it could be.

Above all, the web site is in need of a renewed publicity push, particularly now that apartment hunting season is upon us. When it launched in September 2009, SG widely trumpeted the website’s resources, like its Renters’ Guides for setting up utilities and internet. However, the many graduate and undergraduate students who have arrived on campus since then likely haven’t heard of the resource. An e-mail campaign or fliers around campus could fix that problem.

Beyond that, the resources on UChicago Apartments need to be expanded before it becomes a definitive resource for students moving, and that’s an effort that all of us living off-campus can help with. Many students, assuming that MAC Property Management is the only viable option off-campus, go straight to their offices on East 53rd Street and never look any further. But there are many other realtors and landlords in the neighborhood, some of whom are already detailed on UChicago Apartments. SG should work to make these realtor listings more comprehensive, and students should use the web site’s feedback links to alert SG to unlisted properties and realtors.

The greatest service offered by the website could be the comments on the realtors: honest, unfettered evaluations of their offerings, posted by current and former residents. But participation in the comments sections is low—MAC only has five comments, the most recent having been posted last August. This leaves students to rely on word-of-mouth and realtors to get input on properties and to guide their apartment search. Those of us already off-campus should visit the site to comment on our current digs, both so future students have more information when looking for apartments and so that realtors and landlords have the incentive to improve.

Once UChicago Apartments has a complete listing of the area’s apartments, with details and comments on each one, students thinking about moving to 52nd Street and Kimbark Avenue will know before signing their lease that the landlord is especially quick to respond to service requests, for example, or only fixes holes in the wall by taping old newspaper over them. In time, UChicago Apartments could become an indispensable site, just like Course Evaluations are during registration and Yelp is when picking a restaurant.

UChicago Apartments already has a strong framework, and numerous resources for those new to Hyde Park or looking to leave the dorms, but it needs greater student participation and some additional work by site administrators before it is the complete guide it could be. With a little new development, UChicago Apartments stands to become prime real estate for Hyde Park apartment seekers.

The Editorial Board consists of the Editor-in-Chief and the Viewpoints Editors.

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