SA plans apartment survey

By Michelle Landrum

Students might have an easier time choosing apartments and proving charges of landlord discrimination after a student apartment survey is completed later this semester.

The Student Association Community Affairs Committee received approval for additional funds to conduct the survey from the SA Finance Committee Tuesday.

Although no official count exists of DeKalb’s rental units, Students’ Legal Assistance Director Don Henderson estimated DeKalb to include about 4,000 units, generating about $20 million annually in rent.

“That’s an enormous amount of money changing hands,” he said. Rental property might be “the biggest industry in the city.”

Because of new apartment construction and management changes, the survey might be outdated after three years, Henderson said. “I don’t think there’s any question there is a need, a demand, for students to see the survey.”

The survey will examine at least 28 of the 32 major DeKalb apartment complexes with seven or more units, said SA Community Affairs Adviser Brian Subatich. Randomly selected apartment dwellers will be asked to answer 25 general condition questions about their premises and 10 optional personal questions concerning race, financial status and national origin, he said.

The optional questions will be helpful in providing proof of discrimination, Henderson said. “Discrimination is difficult to prove,” he said, but the survey will help by sampling people in similar situations. “At least that will give us arrows to take further action,” he said.

Discrimination “occurs and exists whenever students are treated differently,” Henderson said. Examples of discriminatory treatment include requiring certain residents to produce more references or a bigger security deposit than others and “shunting” residents of a particular ethnic origin to one building, he said.

Students’ Legal Assistance won a discrimination case last spring, Henderson said, and two other incidents were reported.

Local landlords donated $500 toward the 150 to 300-page survey, the SA Community Affairs Committee provided $400 and the remaining $700 was financed through SA supplemental funding. The survey will be conducted through the National Institute Public Opinion Lab.

A 1986 survey examined about 16 apartment complexes on 10 different factors. Throughout the past three years, thousands of survey copies were distributed, Subatich said. “It’s a survey that gets out to a lot of students.”