A revamped website may aid graduate students’ search for off-campus housing in the upcoming academic year.
The new housing website was created in 2014 and refined over the past two semesters, and it enables students to rate off-campus housing and landlords. Designed at the behest of the Student Advisory Committee on Graduate and Professional Housing, the website seeks to improve the housing experience of the 80 percent of graduate students who live off campus. Previous online graduate housing websites were described by students as ineffective and faulty.
“The problems with the old website were that it wasn’t very user-friendly and not a lot of people knew about it,” said Wendy Xiao GRD ’17, the Graduate Student Assembly representative on the Housing Committee.
While the old Yale Housing website had problems with its search function and lacked an aggregated rating system, the new website holds small and large landlords accountable, Xiao said. An additional feature alerts Yale Housing to any incorrect information on online property listings, Housing Director of Graduate and Professional Student Housing George Longyear said.
Graduate students noted to the committee their poor experiences with the New Haven-based real estate firm, Pike International, in particular. Students interviewed said landlords, especially those at Pike, often do not provide quality services to student tenants.
“Pike International owns a really huge portion of the real estate in New Haven,” Jessica Kasje GRD ’19 said. “It really sucks as a grad student to not know that they’re terrible landlords.”
Kasje said her own landlord last year had raised the rent unnecessarily. This, plus other housing-related issues, would have been avoidable, Kasje said, had there been a rating website at the time.
Despite these concerns about Pike’s services, Pike realtor Sondra Tamborini said she does not think the real estate agency’s customer service was lacking.
“We have a zero vacancy in our Yale portfolio with a long waiting list which is evidence of our superb customer service which we strive to improve daily,” she said in an email.
Several students said they think Yale should not try to influence New Haven’s housing market.
“I don’t know if it’s strictly Yale’s business,” said John Caughman MUS ’16. “Comparing landlords is going to happen informally, and it’s important that people renting know who to avoid.”
Other students were more enthusiastic about the new rating website.
Wei Luo GRD ’16 said that because so many graduate students live off campus, it is imperative for Yale to make sure off-campus housing is affordable and well-maintained.
“If we can share this information with the community, it will be really helpful,” Luo said.
In addition to the new website, the Graduate School offers students with a monthly legal aid program allowing graduates have the opportunity to meet with volunteer lawyers from the New Haven Bar Association.
Although this program was launched independently of the housing website, Graduate School Assistant Dean Robert Harper-Mangels said graduate students commonly face legal issues with landlords.