Community · For The Students · Housing

Why students have to sacrifice their safety to live close to campus

Finding an appropriate living situation that best fits your needs is a dilemma that every student faces near the end of their freshman year. With a shortage in University dorms, it’s the norm for students to move into an apartment after their first year here. But what many students discover is that living on your own isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be.

In fact, it can be expensive, inconvenient and even unsafe.

“The house I lived in junior year had faulty wiring, holes in the walls, and it was dirty and just really hadn’t been updated in a while. It was over 100 years old, and you could really tell,” Hannah Bowles, a senior biology student says of her former residence on Willey Street.

Many students like Bowles are in the same situation, living in homes that they suspect could kill them. It seems as if in order to live downtown closer to classes, you give up your right to proper and safe shelter.

So why does this phenomenon happen mainly downtown? For one, landlords and rental companies know they have a demand for their apartments. (Mostly) everyone wants to live downtown, so they know they’ll have people wanting to rent from them. Therefore, they don’t feel the pressure to update their rentals. Regardless, students will still want to live there in order to be closer to campus and nightlife.

“It allows owners to make the most money possible because they don’t have to invest any back into the properties,” Bowles says, “It’s kind of a vicious cycle.”

Another factor in these unsafe living conditions is the city’s code enforcement (or lack thereof.) The City of Morgantown’s housing code was adopted in 1979, and it only requires that rental property be inspected once every three years. In a college community, three years is more than enough time for an apartment to rack up on damages and safety hazards.

On top of that, the code just isn’t strong enough for the environment these houses are in. In 2014, there were 208 code complaints. That year, only 13 houses in the city limits were condemned. For 10 of those houses, the condemnation was eventually lifted.

Under the outdated code, landlords can “quick-fix” the issue without solving the root of the problem in order to lift the citation or condemnation, and the house never truly gets updated.

“There definitely should be a higher standard of living. I find it hard to believe some of these houses pass inspections,” Bowles says.

While adequate (and safe) housing can be found downtown, be prepared to make some sacrifices. You could have to give up space, included parking, or extras like a dishwasher and washer and dryer. Or you could very well end up paying more than you want.

It’s also extremely important you do your research.

“You should always ask around for opinions on landlords or try to find previous tenants before you decide to rent. That way you know what you’re getting into,” Bowles advises.

Are you living in an apartment you think could possibly kill you? Submit a complaint here.





8 thoughts on “Why students have to sacrifice their safety to live close to campus

  1. Interesting. Your post brings up some points I hope are addressed by those in power to do something about it. I actually wasn’t aware of how hazardous the living conditions can be here. I lived in the dorms for 2 years because I dreaded looking for an apartment. Then, I was happy to be making enough money to be able to afford Vandalia Apartments, which is owned by the University. If one can afford it, I would reccommend living here because it’s super safe with limited access and close to campus. However, you don’t get a lot for your money. The apartments are a bit small. You’re definitely paying for the location. It should not be this expensive for these apartments, but by the sound of it, the safe conditions are worth it.


  2. While I am sure that your post brings up some good points about some housing in the downtown area I have to disagree with some of it. I have lived downtown all three years since I was a freshman, and I have loved every second of it. Not just because of the location but also because it is genuinely nice and safe. Also many of my friends live downtown and their apartments are also very satisfactory. Not to be negative but I just think yu should have represented some of the people who love there apartments downtown, and feel they are nice and safe.


  3. This is a major problem and the main reason why WVU is side stepping local landlords and bringing in national corporations to build and maintain these new apartment buildings. All too many landlords do everything to increase their profit at the expense of the safety and basic comfort of their tenants. I am fortunate that where I live in the Norwood section of Sabraton, I found the best landlords I ever had.


  4. This is a great post!!! I lived in an apartment my sophomore year, and I was so excited about finally having my own place with my friends outside of the dorm. I overlooked the things like the rail that shook and fell down, the air condition that froze above my bed and then dripped on me at night as it thawed out, the lack of closet in my room, the disgusting carpet with small holes in it from the previous tennants’ hookah – it was a total nightmare. My dad HATED it. He calls every house in Sunnyside a “fire trap” and refused to let me stay on Grant, McClane, or Beverly, even though my place on Beechurst wasn’t much better.


  5. I’ve lived downtown for four years, and I’ve generally enjoyed it and had few problems. It’s not perfect, but there are much worse places to live in Morgantown – and I don’t think “safety” is really an issue, unless you’re living in the type of broken-down old house that they’re tearing down by the dozen in Sunnyside. But then again, why would you really want to live there anyway?


  6. This post brings up a lot of interesting points. I’ve lived downtown ever since I moved out of Boreman after freshman year, but have had very few problems. Granted, two of the three years were in complexes (first Bent Tree, then the green apartments across from Papa Johns). I’ve seen some of the houses on Grant and they do look very run down. I’ve even heard of people having to call the city to get their heat turned on because the landlords won’t do it.

    One thing I think you should have mentioned was the older dorms on campus. I lived in Boreman North and it is pretty run down. There is no AC, and when it got cold, the heat didn’t work and the hall had to bring in maintenance in the middle of the night to come into everyone’s rooms to kick on the heat. How do you think Morgantown should address the issues of not just older houses, but older dorms as well?


  7. I’ve always lived downtown because I value the convenience of walking to campus and the downtown bars. Because of this, I have sacrificed living in a new, modern apartment and have still paid rather high rent rates. I used to live in Sunnyside Commons which was condemned last year and endured bugs infestations, poor plumbling and even break-ins. However, I dealt with the same problems when I lived in the dorms (Dadisman Hall). In my opinion, much of downtown is in need a complete gutting/renovation. WVU and landlords need to have that same mentality as well.


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