Northwest Missourian Opinion

Securing a place to rent in Maryville is like trying to find a parking spot on campus.

After failing to find her own place to rent and forced to resort to a less-than-ideal living situation last year, Northwest senior Lauren Aldendifer argues the renting situation is even more problematic than the parking problem. 

“I would rather drive through all the town’s potholes than look for an apartment in Maryville,” she said.

There are not enough rental options available for students in Maryville, especially for students with pets, who want to live alone, or have a limited income. Many of my peers have pets, and I see students walking their dogs every day around town, yet pet-friendly rentals are rare. Almost every available listing reads “NO PETS.” Most spaces that allow pets are five-bedroom houses renting out rooms individually. 

It’s already hard enough trying to find any rental availability considering students begin looking for new rentals before they’ve finished unpacking their boxes in their current place. Of course, that shouldn’t be the case. Most rental sites online suggest scouting for a new place one to two months before your expected move-in date. Yet here in Maryville, students start their search in October, half a year before they plan to move out. That’s when the competition begins. 

I’ll check the Facebook group Maryville Rental Finder, and a post from 22 hours ago will already have 16 comments, half of them reading “messaged you.” If you aren’t one of the first to see a rental update, you’re already behind.

Luckily there are other sources for rental listings. A few weeks ago, I stopped by Shirley’s Realty for a rental list and noticed one at the top of the page that was pet-friendly and in my price range. I asked the realtor about it, and she said it was just listed yesterday, but the first people who walked in took it. How are we supposed to compete with that?

Finding an available listing in your price range is just the first hurdle in the race for a place. I thought I finally found a new place to live, but after I was shown the apartment and agreed to a lease, the landlord ghosted me for a week before explaining it was under new ownership and the rent would be higher. 

It’s understandable that a renovated apartment should be more expensive than the original, but are the new vinyl floors really worth a $250 upcharge in rent? The answer is no, but as college students with limited options, we are at the mercy of the landlord. 

People know Maryville is a hot spot for renting out spaces. The 2021 Maryville City Budget says of Maryville’s 5,472 households, 42% are owner occupied and 47.7% of the total households are renter occupied units, with a 7% vacancy rate existing citywide for all housing types. There are constantly new realtors offering landlords a price they can’t refuse, so they can swoop up their properties, renovate them and charge a higher rent. Fortunately, I hadn’t moved in yet when I experienced this, but other students aren’t so lucky.

Last year, Northwest student Austin Sharp was a few months into renting an apartment when he was told a new property company was buying the building, and he had a month to move out. 

“Most of the leases here are for May to May. Since I got kicked out in November, I couldn’t find anywhere I could afford to live, so I had to crash at a friend’s for the rest of the year,” he said.

The race for a rental is only getting more competitive with enrollment at Northwest increasing, this year setting a record number of students enrolled. Maryville desperately needs more housing options instead of companies buying already-existing rental properties and charging higher prices. And it’d be nice if we could collectively agree to not start the search for a new rental until the new year, but that’s wishful thinking.

After months of searching, I finally found a place to live. I drove down a quiet side street looking for the address on the rental list and came across a white house with a shed next to it. That’s when I realized the shed had the address I was looking for. After multiple failed attempts at securing an apartment, I was out of options. 

Of course I’m paying an extra month’s rent because it couldn’t be held through May. I was hesitant about signing until the landlord explained five people were lined up behind me to see the place. I couldn’t believe five people were interested in the old converted garage disguised as a house, but that illustrates the point that students are desperate for housing in this town.

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