Renters sacrifice quality for location

Pete Frost

Although the University spends millions of dollars renovating run-down facilities, Dinkytown, the area’s best known college neighborhood, is doing little to complement the school’s efforts.
According to realtors in the Dinkytown area, many of the homes and apartments are declining in quality and value. The area’s renters are also showing concern, calling their buildings nonfunctional, ugly and beat-up.
Amy Rice, a College of Liberal Arts junior, rents a house with four friends in the Dinkytown area. “It doesn’t feel that safe. Our doors are loose and our front door only locks with a chain because the deadbolt doesn’t even work,” Rice said. “Our light fixtures are bad, our windows are drafty and our door handle continually falls off.”
Rice noted that all of these things have been brought to her landlord’s attention, but he hasn’t done anything about it.
Addi Larson, a junior at Bethel College and one of Rice’s roommates, added that “getting anything fixed around here is like pulling teeth.”
“Our landlord acts like it’s a huge inconvenience to get someone over here to look at our furnace in the middle of the winter while we’re sitting there freezing,” Larson added.
The landlord was unavailable for comment.
Dinkytown resident Kelly Niedenfuer, a CLA sophomore, said she was satisfied with the quality of her apartment except that she doesn’t feel safe. “I think that the poor quality of the area attracts some bad people. My room has been broken into, as well as one of my roommates’, and it is starting to seem like a bad neighborhood.
“I guess if you want to live close to school, safety is what you have to sacrifice,” Niedenfuer concluded.
A group of three male students who rent a five-bedroom house for $1600 a month in Dinkytown also expressed discontent over their current housing situation.
“Our gas stove was leaking for the first three weeks we lived here,” remarked Luke Schmidt, a CLA sophomore. “The thing was, we didn’t even notice until one day a guy came in on a routine check and told us that the stove was very unsafe and turned it off. On top of that, we had to wait at least a week after that for someone to come and fix it.”
Mark Lee, also a CLA sophomore and Schmidt’s roommate, said they made due with only half of a bathroom door for over a month.
“The door that they replaced is basically made of cardboard, too.” Lee also noted that “whenever something is fixed, they do a half-ass job.”
Patrick Geary, a CLA sophomore, agreed with his roommates. “We have to keep calling and calling our landlord to get him to finally come and fix stuff.” Geary explained that their landlord had told them he has multiple units, and he uses this as an excuse for not getting things done at their apartment.
The three also pointed out their basement, where the main floor sags down into the center of the room. Schmidt said that if marbles were placed in each corner of the main floor, all of them would roll to the center.
While landlords bear much of the blame, tenants and the city of Minneapolis are also responsible for the Dinkytown housing situation.
Collette Lund of MLS Realty, who sells property in the Dinkytown area, gave several possible reasons for the unpretentious appearance and lack of care for the neighborhood.
“Tenants don’t take pride in the places they rent, they don’t care for their homes like a homeowner does,” Lund said. “Typically, people take better care of the property if they own it. If they rent, they just don t keep up with it. About half of the landlords in this area just let the property go down.
“Why spend money to fix things when they will just get torn apart again by the tenants anyway?” Lund continued. “If you’re constantly fixing things, you’re probably not turning desirable profits, which is why you rent out in the first place.”
Lund also noted that the city of Minneapolis is just as much to blame for the poor apartments in Dinkytown as the landlords. The city does not give home-improvement loans to landlords, which further deters any sort of remodeling or small — sometimes necessary — improvements.
If any improvements are going to be made in Dinkytown, Lund said, the city of Minneapolis will have to give proprietors the same access to loans as homeowners.