Apartment hunting. Two words that, for college students, oftentimes conjure up images of slumlords leering over leases full of hidden clauses amidst an apartment where no one would ever bring their grandmother.
We have all heard the horror stories from friends of friends and know the topography of Keene’s landscape is ridden with housing that should be condemned or, in the very least, inspected.
Up until this summer, the apartments placed on the Residential Life website have arguably included some of the worst of Keene’s atrocities; however, with the advent of the Voluntary Minimum Housing and Safety Standards inspection Keene State College students may be able to avoid the more deplorable living conditions.
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Under this new inspection process, if landlords wish to place their listings on the college website, they must submit to voluntary inspections. In this way, the college is attempting to eliminate those landlords who do not have the best interests of the students in mind.
However, a voluntary inspection is just that—voluntary. If a landlord chooses not to submit to these inspections, it is arguable that very little will change for her or him. The voluntary inspections were created under the auspice that, by displaying the best of Keene’s apartments, other landlords would have more incentive to improve the living conditions of their own facilities.
The landlords who sign up for the voluntary inspections already have something to prove—to be proud of. It is not a far-reaching assumption that it will be those landlords who know that their apartments are unsuitable for habitation who will choose not to submit to the inspections.
It should be raised as a legitimate concern that the Voluntary Minimum Housing and Safety Standards inspection will merely highlight those apartments that are already satisfactory, while allowing those that desperately need sanctions issued against them to continue to languish.
Although this is a laudable first step in the process to weed out unsafe and unsanitary apartments, it should by no means be the final solution to a problem that is bigger than the college. In the end, the city of Keene should be responsible for the conditions of buildings it allows to exist.
Until official inspections are carried out on a regular basis, those slumlords lurking in the backs of our imaginations will continue to thrive.