AMS kickstarts housing site

Site seeks to make house hunting less frustrating for students

A house in the University District.
A house in the University District.

At the end of November, AMS Municipal Affairs Commissioner (MAC) Ariel Aguilar Gonzalez launched a new University District housing website, as part of the rebranding of the area.

The website features a housing guide, housing resources, videos, FAQs and a housing map, created in partnership with New York startup PadMapper.

The map aggregates local listings from classified websites like Kijiji and Craigslist — as well as the startup’s own listings website, PadLister — onto a Google Map. Users can adjust filters like rent range and number of bedrooms and bathrooms on the map.

The site was also designed to be visually appealing to students and “hopefully” make the house hunting experience more reassuring and less frustrating.

Aguilar, ArtSci '16, said the idea for the website had been in the works since February. It was launched with the help of the AMS IT office and a local web developer, following consultation with the IT office. He consulted with former MACs Catherine Wright and David Sinkinson, the latter having developed a previous version of the housing map.

The website revamp was done in part to fulfill the mandate of the Municipal Affairs Commission, Aguilar said, which is to educate students about housing issues and the market and help them move into housing. He said he hopes it’ll be a non-biased source of information for housing.

“We really wanted to create a website that had everything — all the information and resources that you needed throughout your housing experience, so from house hunting to in the house to leaving the house,” Aguilar said.

PadMapper’s algorithm allows listings on external sites to automatically appear on the housing map, although Aguilar said the program’s compatibility with PadLister — since PadMapper and PadLister were created by the same developer — means sublets or rentals posted on this site appear more quickly on the MAC housing map.

Aguilar said PadLister places listings based on location, whereas other sites like Kijiji and Craigslist order ads based on when they’re posted online.

“You could have a really great place and a great location but it might be hidden underneath all these new classifieds,” he said.

“So the advantage of PadLister is it puts you in your location right away and it doesn’t organize it by timing.”

He said the response to the site from both students and landlords has been positive. Website visits peaked around late November and at the beginning of this month, with a drop during exams in December. More than 1,800 people have accessed the website and there have been nearly 20,000 pageviews.

The housing website can be accessed at http://housing.myams.org.

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