Athens rental-housing companies met with nearly 200 students at Ohio University’s Walter Rotunda last Tuesday as a part of the Spring 2020 Off-Campus Housing Fair. 

The event was organized by OU’s Office of Community Engagement along with Live South Green, the student housing company that runs the River Annex, River’s Edge, River Gate and River Park student apartment complexes. (Its parent company is Columbus-based Homestead U.)

The housing fair began as a way to help students meet landlords and learn some of the good, the bad and the ugly of off-campus living before they sign their first leases. 

Donna Stage, general manager of Live South Green, arranged the housing fair with Barbara Harrison, assistant director for civil engagement at Ohio University.

“I approached Barb and I told her that I’ve done this in Columbus for several years, and I’d love us to be able put something on that we could get all the properties involved in,” Stage explained. “We have the Police Department and the Fire Department here so it’s more of a community engagement, not just a housing fair.” 

The Athens Police and Fire departments set up tables at the event and talked with students about the transition to off-campus living, offering advice on topics such as city parking regulations, fire codes and home protection.

According to Stage, the housing fair is just as much of a learning opportunity for students as it is a marketing opportunity for Athens rental companies, almost all of which were represented at the event.

“I work really closely with the other properties,” Stage said. “I asked them to partner with us in getting the word out for the housing fair, and then it’s just ‘bring your A-game.’ We can all be competitive here, but if we don’t have students that come to the event, it doesn’t do any of us any good.”

Each rental company shelled out $250 for a table at the event and a chance to connect with incoming renters. 

Stage maintained that the housing fair helps to keep student housing companies honest and establish a relationship between OU students and the city of Athens.

“When they (students) come to the event, they get the opportunity to see not only the big landlords, but the smaller ones too,” Stage said. “It also keeps the properties honest; it keeps you more competitive, and it keeps the slumlords out of the area because they know they’re competing with this.”

Although OU organized a similar event during 2019’s Fall semester, last Tuesday’s housing fair was the first at OU to have corporate sponsors, including Sherwin Williams, PPG, Monster Energy and Able Roofing. 

The event’s primary sponsor, Sherwin Williams, covered the cost of all of the food and catering for the event and will continue to support OU housing fairs in the future, Stage confirmed in an email after the event. 

Live South Green and OU’s Office of Community Engagement are still planning the next off-campus housing fair, but it’s expected to take place Fall 2020 at the South Green volleyball courts. The planned theme is “Battle of the Bands,” which would offer a showcase of local musicians. 

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