Getting the Scoop on Off-Campus Housing

The Journal printed this article yesterday concerning off-campus housing concerns. SUU is working on a website where students can provide information about their experiences with off-campus apartments and managers. These surveys are meant to help students know which units have good management, and which unit managers are struggling. I think this is a good example of how symmetrical information can help to shift surplus. For example, if students publish in their surveys that the managers of XYZ Apartments are not cooperative, the demand for these apartments will go do down and the managers will have to lower rents to attract renters. This would shift some of the surplus away from the apartment owners (suppliers). Do you agree?


Dr. Tufte said...

Absolutely. I'm very proud of our administration for having come up with an idea like this on their own.

This also is an application of strategic thinking. Because renters have leases, they are playing a finite game with landlords. All finite games can be reduced to one-shot games, and in the conventional renting situation, the landlord's best strategy is to ignore the tenant.

By creating a forum where the views of tenants can be preserved and viewed indefinitely, SUU is converting housing into an infinite game. In such a situation, there is much more reason for the landlord to be responsive to the student's requests.

It will be interesting to see, though, how good they are at keeping their hands off of it when something bad happens.

Avery said...

This is definitely going to be helpful to the renters and I can see an advantage for the owners as well. As owners see their properties mismanaged, they can change management in order to try to improve their image. This will also cause managers to be more attentive to complaints coming from students.

Aidan said...

I’m curious what effect this may have with on-campus housing. Unfortunately I don’t have any statistics to back this up but in my years at SUU it seems the majority of those living on-campus are freshmen. They spend one year in on-campus housing and then take off for off-campus housing. I believe this is the case because incoming freshmen’s only source through the university with housing dealt with on-campus facilities. Now with this new information link they can explore their options. Will on-campus housing take a hit? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Trinity said...

Dr. Tufte's assessment of the program are valid but the program itself may not even work. I'm concerned that tenants will not bother with responding. Like any non-incentive survey, most respondents are either very happy or very upset with the situation. The regular opinions from regular students will not be heard unless the student has some kind of incentive to add his/her two cents.

William said...

Dr. Tufte,
The only problem that I see with this is that no students may even look at the website if it is not properly advertised. If you look at for instance the online ‘rate your teachers’, that program seems to have little to any influence.
My next question would be if there is any way to make sure that the person writing the comment is actually living there and is actually a student?
I could see some perverse incentives here. The managers could either themselves write great reviews or have their friends write great review about the housing complex. And they would in effect give off a false perception. Even if a few wrote a couple of bad things they could combat this with many positive things.
When I look at when I lived off campus I never got the service I wanted. It seemed that it would take the managers four months to fix a simple problem. And yet when we talked to the head manager in charge he seemed to not care. Why would he all of a sudden care now? Unless there is a huge decrease in demand, which I do not believe would happen. Especially if it is not a popular website and few students go to it.
I guess I am playing the devil's advocate or taking on the pessimistic view. I think my frustration comes from many good ideas that are given by SUU, but are not properly enforced and so the idea just stays as a great idea and no change is made.

Reagan said...

Dr. Tufte-Extra Credit

I don't know if I can say I'm proud of our administration for this idea. In theory it's great but I doubt it will work the way it is intended to.

People that comment on forums such as this are generally the ones that have a problem. These people have an incentive to post their complaints such as rectification or justice. In addition some of these problems will not be legitimate and are only a problem from the complaintant's perspective.

The majority of posts will most likely reflect the negatives with little or no input from tenants that have positive experiences. The reason is because there is no incentive for them to post a positive experience.

Compare this to course evaluations. If we took a professors course reviews we would probably find a ratio of more complaints to compliments with a low percentage of the class actually completing the evaluations. Good landlords will continue to be good landlords and the bad landlords will continue to be bad landlords unless an incentive is added that encourages all tenants to post their experiences.

TheFindlay said...

Dr. Tufte
It sounds to me, by your opening sentence, that you have a lot of trust in the administrations abilities and performance. I think it is a great idea to help the freshmen. If you get duped by your landlord during your second year that is your problem for not paying attention. Anyway, I think they should also have something like this for on-campus housing because they are sticking it to the students thanks to Mr. “Greed Oozes Out My Eyeballs” Duncan. Man, he is the filthiest weasel I have met and I do not stand alone in my disgust!

Dr. Tufte said...

I think William added a lot to this one.

Also, part of the reason for my liking this idea is that landlords already have to work with SUU to be part of student housing. This is one more check on their behavior.