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Online housing hub makes Uptown renting easier

<p>Many sophomore opted out of their on-campus housing contracts after Miami&#x27;s phased return announcement this summer, but living off campus isn&#x27;t always a cakewalk. </p>

Many sophomore opted out of their on-campus housing contracts after Miami's phased return announcement this summer, but living off campus isn't always a cakewalk.

Miami students now have a new university-backed tool for navigating the sometimes-frightening waters of off-campus living in Oxford.

Launched on Feb. 15, the new Off-Campus Housing listing site,, allows users to search for housing options, post their own sublease listings and talk on message boards about housing questions and concerns.

The listings include both Miami-sponsored housing like Hawk's Landing and Miami Preserve as well as a large number of properties owned by Oxford rental companies and independent renters, all who pay a fee to have their posts displayed on the site. These listings can then be sorted through over 100 filters, including distance to campus, type of housing (apartment, house, duplex, etc.), specific amenities, cost and length of lease.

The project is the culmination of several years of work, primarily by the one-woman office of Off-Campus Outreach and Communication (OCOC), which is run by director Jen O'Brien.

O'Brien, who took the position in 2015, saw a need to dispel the common myth that students need to sign a lease years in advance to ensure an off-campus living space during their time at Miami.

Almost 35 percent of students at Miami sign a lease before their sophomore year, according to a survey that O'Brien ran as one of her first actions as director. With more than 16,000 spots for off-campus housing in Oxford, she felt this percentage was both too high by itself but also didn't reflect the popular rent-housing-early myth.

"There is a disconnect here between what information students are getting their hands on and what the city had in their records," said O'Brien.

These facts, coupled with the data from the OCOC survey that almost 70 percent of students find housing through word of mouth, led O'Brien to work with Off Campus Partners, a company that specializes in creating these kinds of listing sites for colleges.

The website was first proposed in April of 2015 by O'Brien, and went through significant vetting, especially with Miami's legal department. It should be noted that Miami University does not inspect or individually approve every dwelling on the site.

"We aren't filtering anything, we aren't inspecting anything, these are just the properties that the companies post," said O'Brien.

As of March 2, over 1,000 unique users visited the site, and O'Brien considers the program so far to be a success. There are also plans in place to add a robust roommate-finder feature to the website.

"It feels amazing. Especially given what a long process it's been," she said. "Seeing students getting something out of it has certainly made the long process worth it for me."

The OCOC survey results also indicate that 17 percent of students don't even complete a walk-through of the property before they sign a lease. Part of O'Brien's job is also assisting students with general off-campus housing complaints and problems, some of which could be avoided, she said, if students would make sure to be thorough before signing anything binding.

OCOC is working to help educate students by hosting in-depth, off-campus housing workshops through residence halls about the leasing process. Halls can set up one of these workshops by getting in touch with O'Brien.