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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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April 15, 2024
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Off-campus housing availability concerns Galesburg landlord

Off-campus+housing+availability+concerns+Galesburg+landlord

One of Jamie Bastian’s properties that he leases to Knox Students.

One of Jamie Bastian’s properties that he leases to Knox Students.

Galesburg landlord discusses what COVID-19 has meant for leasing apartments around Knox’s campus for students.

Jamie Bastian has been a landlord in Galesburg for thirteen years and rents exclusively to Knox students, post-baccs and recent graduates. As a result, Knox College’s student housing decisions to account for the health concerns of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic directly impacted his family’s income.

“I didn’t know if I was going to have any properties with tenants. I was really worried about that, because this is, you know, my livelihood,” said Bastian of Knox’s housing decisions for spring and fall term 2020. “It was scary for us because we didn’t know what to expect.”

He runs the business with his wife Angela Bastian. Their ten properties, which include houses, duplexes and apartments, fall within a one and a half block radius from Knox College.

Bastian enjoys having first-time tenants—often referring to them as “my students”—and does not mind being a more hands on landlord.

When Knox moved to fully-remote learning over spring break of 2020, sending most on-campus students home, Bastian said only a few of his tenants decided to leave Galesburg. Others stayed—many to keep their jobs or continue living with friends.

To assuage some of the new economic stresses of his renters during the spring term, Bastian let them pay half of their rent on the 1st of every month and half on the 15th, and made all coin-operated washers and dryers free.

But with the impact of coronavirus aside, the pool of potential tenants of Bastian Properties has decreased dramatically as Campus Life disallows off-campus housing. Bastian cites a drop in enrollment at Knox as the cause of these restrictions.

“Before enrollment was down, I had a good relationship with Knox College itself,” he said. 

Campus Life would regularly refer students seeking off-campus housing to Bastian Properties, said Bastian. He explained that those referrals, along with word-of-mouth referrals between students, brought in all of his renters. 

According to Bastian, in the past three to four years, Campus Life cut contact and his properties now fill through word-of-mouth alone.

“Knox College is still a residential college and we expect all students to live on campus,” Director of Campus Life Eleanor Burmeister wrote last month in an email interview in reference to Knox’s normal, and not COVID-19, housing policy. 

Burmeister wrote that students can only live off-campus if they have documentation of being married or in a legally recognized civil union or domestic partnership, have dependent children or require, by reason of a disability or medical necessity, a housing option which cannot be provided by Knox College.

“We are a residential campus and will always value the on campus experience,” wrote Burmeister.

In a June 26th email titled “Off Campus Housing Opportunity,” Burmeister informed Knox sophomores, juniors and seniors of the college’s wish for students to find off-campus housing to minimize the risk of on-campus COVID-19 transmission. All students, some of whom were previously denied off-campus housing, could elect to find a place. Students had until July 8th to commit to living off-campus.

Junior Gabriella Diaz, who is from Galesburg, opted to move off-campus after the June email.

“I have to find somewhere else to live that’s not my house, especially if I’m going to be taking on-campus classes,” Diaz said.

Diaz committed to living off-campus and by the end of July secured a lease in one of Bastian’s properties. 

Before finding the apartment, Diaz struggled to find places that were close to campus and could accommodate Diaz’s emotional support animal. A friend and current tenant of Bastian, referred her to Bastian’s open property. The apartment, which had an electrical fire last year, was being outfitted with new furnishings and technically unlisted, Diaz said. 

After the refurbishment, the apartment was ready to be leased to Diaz and her roommates in the first week of September.

Diaz prefers off-campus living to on-campus, saying that it makes her feel less stressful and gives her a good work life balance. She plans to seek off-campus living next year.

“It’s very close to campus but it’s still not on-campus, so it sort of still feels, like, away,” she said.

In response to Knox’s decision to usher more students to live off-campus due to COVID-19, Bastian said, “[It] was wonderful, I thanked them for that. I think it made a lot of other students, and a lot of parents, I think, really comfortable to send their kids back to school.”

While allowances for off campus housing may near obsoletion in the future, Bastian asserts that off campus living is a vital opportunity for students to set up a rental history before graduation.

“By the time you’re a junior and definitely a senior, I mean, your next step is to go out into the real world,” Bastian said.

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