After journalism professor-in-residence Andrea Billups was hired to teach at WKU in early August, she needed to move quickly from Florida to Bowling Green for her new position.
Billups and her partner, Steve Miller, found a modern, reasonably priced condominium to rent in Bowling Green and signed the lease. They hired movers to transport their belongings and packed up two cars with their 93-pound black labrador in tow.
However, upon reaching the condo, Billups received the news it would not be ready for another month due to ongoing construction. She found herself with nowhere to live.
“It became a nightmare after that,” Billups said.
Billups found lodging at a local yet expensive Airbnb and stayed there until the end of fall. After looking at 14 homes and apartments, various offers fell through because of their larger dog, while other places were in bad shape or overpriced. Billups said she finally gave up.
“The city didn’t offer us very much in terms of a short-term rental,” Billups said. “For my first semester, it really took away from me being able to teach properly, because I was having to spend so much time looking for places that were doable.”
In the spring, Billups and Miller started renting from a WKU faculty member who was going to teach abroad. She said she has been unable to move her belongings from home out of storage and described the situation as being one of utter frustration.
“It’s been very disheartening and left a bad taste in my mouth,” Billups said. On Dec. 17, 2018, TIME Money published a story listing the best places to live in each state. For Kentucky, TIME listed Bowling Green as number one in accordance with the following criteria: median household income and median home listing price.
However, many WKU students and faculty have stories similar to Billups’ and have struggled in finding sustainable housing in Bowling Green.
Louisville native and WKU senior Jay Wells grew up in a middle-class background, and they did not expect to struggle with paying for their housing when they attended WKU in Fall 2015. However, within the past two years, Wells found themselves living in four or five different places and experiencing homelessness, which they said has completely affected their life.
Due to on-campus university housing being too expensive, Wells searched for off-campus apartments. To apply for an apartment, Wells needed to give their credit history or the credit history of their parent or co-signer. As Wells had to leave a tense home situation, they said they could not sign their parents onto the lease. Wells also did not have credit history and did not have someone to co-sign.
“The experience of a student with a parent or co-signer is vastly different than students in poverty living on their own,” Wells said.
Another obstacle they found was the required security deposit, which was between $800 and $1,000. The security deposit serves as assurance to the landlord that the apartment will be inhabited for a set period of time and normally also serves as a damage deposit, according to the Kentucky attorney general. Wells said they could not afford the security deposits, which made it difficult to find a place to live.