Low student voter turnout means less influence on landlord policies

By Erik Allgood

Students make up almost half of the population eligible to vote in Champaign County.

However, statistics show that students are not utilizing the ability to significantly influence the relationship between themselves and their landlords.

Student turnout at the elections was very low, said Esther Patt, Tenant Union coordinator. She said there were about 130 student voters, compared to more than 8,000 in the presidential election.

Patt said that until students start showing up to the polls, local politicians will not have any incentive to make changes to rental policy.

“Students and poor people are the main customers of rental housing,” Patt said, “These are not people that the Council members are going to run into at the country club.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Justin Seigler, senior in LAS, lives in an apartment complex at the intersection of Sixth and Chalmers streets, that he called the “shady shortcut” because of its proximity to the bars.

“The landlords hold us to a higher standard than they are willing to adhere to,” Seigler said, “Our washing machine and dryer have been broken for months and they haven’t fixed them, but if we leave a bag of garbage outside the door they give us a fine.”

Patt said Urbana has a much better rental policy than Champaign. While Urbana requires a city inspection of rental properties every two years, Champaign does not. She added that courts are also very reluctant to prosecute landlords in either city. If landlords ask for more time than stipulated in the contract to perform repairs, it is usually granted to them, she said.

Mark Mallon, a senior in LAS who ran for the Urbana Ward 2 spot as a Green Party candidate, said he believes Urbana has good rental policies but needs to do a better job of enforcing them.

He also believes he would have won if students had shown up last week.

“Students need to realize that they have a lot of strength in numbers around here,” Mallon said, “In the ward where I ran, students are the majority by far.”

Seigler said that he voted in the presidential election but did not vote in the local election.

“I don’t pay attention to local stuff because I do not consider myself a permanent resident of Champaign,” Seigler said.

Patt said there are several student groups trying to improve rental policy outside of Champaign County politics. Students for Environmental Concerns is trying to secure recycling pickup for apartment complexes. The Illinois Student Senate is also trying to make it illegal for students to sign leases more than six months before moving into the property. This would keep students from suffering if roommate plans fall through, she said.

But Patt said she thinks student apathy toward local elections is still a big problem.

“Students are here eight months out of the year,” Patt said. “Why are they acting like they still live with mommy?”