Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series on housing discrimination in Ashland.
When Michael Greenidge moved into his apartment on Garfield Street, he had to pay an extra deposit of $300 because he was a student, he said.
Discriminating against students seeking housing is legal in Ashland, and every other city in Oregon. While some landlords require higher deposits or rent from students, others have policies against renting to students at all.
"If a landlord has a no-student policy or requires a different security policy because someone's a student that is legal under the current law," said Moloy Good, executive director of the Fair Housing Council of Oregon.
For several years, the Ashland's Housing Commission has discussed drafting legislation that would make discriminating against students in the housing process illegal, but it has never done so, said Linda Reid, the city's housing program specialist.
A student representative position on the commission has been vacant since last fall. Unless a student fills the position and advocates for the legislation, it's unlikely to be added to an update of the city's fair housing ordinance, scheduled to be completed this fall, Reid said.
Students said they had mixed feelings about enacting an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination against them in the housing process.
SOU senior Antwun Baker, 22, said he understands why some landlords would be skeptical about renting to students.
"I do see where they're coming from, because you have students who are not paying rent and partying and punching holes in the walls," he said. "Not all students are like that but some are."
Greenidge said he thinks it's unfair to treat all students as though they are messy and irresponsible.
"Just because we're college students doesn't mean we're all the same," he said. "I think everybody should have an open chance to housing."
Students can typically find apartments in certain Ashland neighborhoods, such as the area below SOU, surrounding Iowa Street, but the apartments are usually not as nice as ones elsewhere in the city, said SOU junior Gina Clark, 25.
"Those places are pretty awful, pretty trashed," she said. "I wouldn't want to live in the places that are relegated to students."
Clark said she purposefully didn't tell her landlord that she was a student when she applied to rent her apartment in Talent, because she was afraid of being discriminated against.
"I figured if I could get away with neglecting to mention it, that's what I'd definitely do," she said.
Students are not protected from housing discrimination under state or federal laws, but a few cities, such as Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, have enacted laws that make it illegal to discriminate against students in housing, Reid said.
Because Ashland is a university town, it would be appropriate for the city to begin a discussion about discrimination against students seeking housing, Good said.
"Given the frequency with which this issue comes up, it's definitely something that needs to be seriously looked at," he said. "It does seem like there's a segment of the population that's having trouble finding decent housing and it's not through any real fault of their own."
Jason Ebbeling, SOU's director of housing and residential life, said the university's student government may decide to send a representative to the housing committee to advocate for legislation that would protect students from housing discrimination.
"We want to do everything that we can to avoid discrimination in the town of Ashland and discrimination in general against students," he said. "We'll do what we can as a university to help advocate for our students."
Greenidge, who was moving out of his apartment Monday to set up residence in Portland, said he had recruited his parents to help him negotiate with his landlords about his deposit money.
"When they're talking to my parents, they say, 'Yes, sir,' and, 'Yes, ma'am,' but when they're talking to me, they just try to add cash and bills," he said.
For more information on the student representative position on the Housing Commission contact Linda Reed, the city's housing program specialist, at 541-552-2043.
Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.