Finding housing near Mac: the creepy basement saga


A cursed basement haunts a Macalester renter. Photo by Estelle Timar-Wilcox ’22.

Lucy Diaz, Associate Features Editor

 As seniors and juniors are well aware, and sophomores are now beginning to learn, finding off-campus housing is a pain. Not only do you have to work tours into your busy schedule, you have to be prepared, you have to be on top of it. I mean … nobody wants to be homeless. You need people, you need money, you need a plan. To top it all off, the properties around Macalester are essentially all owned by the same four guys. 

If you never learned to prioritize, now is the time to do it, because you’re going to have to decide what the most important things for you are when it comes to where you live. Is it low rent? A nice kitchen? 

Or perhaps it’s not living in a haunted house, with a creepy-ass basement that might be filled with radon. A house can be nice as can be, with a gorgeous attic, big living space, cute kitchen, but houses around Macalester all seem to have one thing in common. 

Creepy fucking basements. 

And, for some reason, every single one seems to force at least one of your housemates to live in the dank underground cellar that your landlord very kindly points out has a window and thus is a “legal basement.” He made sure of it. 

Never mind the fact that your housemates who live aboveground and only traverse the depths of the basements on laundry day are completely oblivious to your misery. 

In fact, they’re living the life, enjoying all of the things that made you pick this house to begin with. Your possibilities, on the other hand, are spending all your time at school, living in the Link, hibernating in your living room and suffering.

Here’s the lesson, kids. If you’re the basement roommate … you’re not going to be rooming with these people next year. In fact, by halfway through fall semester, you’ll probably hate their guts.

I mean … in your lovely basement room with the slimy walls, who wouldn’t want to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of the boiler and the laundry machine? In fact, for the low, low price of several hundred dollars per month, you too can share your bedroom with a ghost! Imagine that!

For some reason, houses around Macalester seem to want to stuff two bedrooms in the basement. So, at least sometimes you will have a fellow basement sufferer to share your pain with. But woe to those with the only basement room, for you will go through your anguish alone.

Climbing a flight of stairs to obtain sunlight, to get food, sometimes even to go to the bathroom. Looking sadly out of your basement window that doesn’t open and is halfway filled up with dirt.

Smelling the musty, slightly mossy and moldy smell as you descend the stairs that you’ll possibly break your neck on or get a splinter in your foot. Hitting your head, of course, on the low hanging, sloped ceiling. Every. Single. Day.

Your housemates, with their lovely, aboveground rooms, do not have to deal with the weird basement smell creeping into their bedsheets. Or, worse yet, their clothes. Imagine walking around campus smelling like basement.

A true nightmare. Worse than being naked in middle school, in my opinion.

In fact, basements only exist because building codes require the foundation of a house to be placed below the frost line. And, in places like the Midwest, the frost depth can be four to six feet below the ground. Since the foundation has to be all the way down there anyway, basements were created for the purpose of expanding usable space.

Let’s repeat that again. Usable space. Like storage. Or laundry. Not as an actual living space. You are either living, or forcing your friends to live, beneath the frost line. The frost line is the depth at which moisture will freeze in the ground.

Perhaps you are desperate enough for housing that you’re willing to accept subpar basement conditions. Or perhaps you’re a shitty enough person to be okay with subjecting your friends or the stranger you’re living with to living in the aforementioned subpar basement conditions.

This is your warning. Don’t do it. Because I guarantee, you won’t be renewing that lease for a second year.

If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll find a house with enough rooms and low rent that you can leave the basement room un-lived in. But that is a rare occasion indeed. So, Macalester house hunters, go out and find your basementless homes. Goodbye and good luck. 

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