Who Cares? I do!: Student housing

Housing has been on all of our minds for quite some time now. The search starts the second we move into our housing in the fall semester and must be completed as soon as possible to assure that we have housing assignments for next year. But why does it have to be this way?

Between town ordinances limiting students in their housing options and the University of Rhode Island cutting down on the spaces open to on-campus students, finding housing is more of a challenge than ever. On top of classes, jobs, organizations, responsibilities, self-care and finding time to relax, students are being forced to find housing. 

Decent housing should be a human right — full stop. Whether you are a college student or an adult working minimum wage jobs or an elder person seeking housing, it should not be a struggle to find a good location to rest your head at night. But, even in a college town that has an abundance of space for students, who also contribute greatly to the economy, housing seems to be a struggle.

This year, many students did not know where they would be living this semester until mere weeks before their semester began. This causes undue stress for students, not to mention, it’s completely unnecessary.

Students are the backbone of Narragansett. Say what you will about housing markets and year-round residents that are trying to start families, but Narragansett is a college town. A major economic source for all the businesses in Narragansett, from grocery stores to restaurants, are students. Students are also the foundation of the low-paying labor force in this area.

The disrespect that many students get from residents is inexcusable. While there are a few bad apples that throw parties and disrupt neighborhoods, most URI students are respectful neighbors and contribute as much to the community as any other resident. To treat college students as second-class citizens is an egregious violation of the relationship between the town of Narragansett and its locals.

It is heartbreaking to see students struggle to find housing that they can afford, as many pay for their own housing fees. With fewer housing options, prices have increased, completely locking many students out of the rental market.

The URI community has expressed outrage on many occasions. It is time to realize that we should be considered residents just as much as the people who live in Narragansett year-round.

I call on local businesses that run off of labor from college students and earn money from selling goods and services to college students to support our movement. Business owners understand the importance of us in the community. Without students in Narragansett, most businesses would be locked up for half of the year or closed down completely. 

I also call on URI administrators to use their influence within the surrounding community to then call on town leaders to get rid of mandates that restrict student housing and create more affordable on-campus housing options. URI is part of a larger community than just the campus. I believe that the University should be reaching out more to our local communities to truly engrain URI students into the larger Kingston and Narragansett communities.

Most importantly, I call on the URI students to continue being a pillar of the community and to show the importance of college students in our town. Create relationships with your neighbors, let the town council know that students are the true backbone of Narragansett and be respectful and responsible in day-to-day life and when throwing parties. 

If the town council does not listen to the students, I believe that it is time for Narragansett businesses to be boycotted. If URI students, even for a week, were to avoid Narragansett businesses, the town would lose millions of dollars in revenue. We have the power with our money and with our words. 

Make your voice heard for fair, affordable and decent housing conditions for URI students.