Ball State University graduate student Gabriel Shetterley of Pendleton is working to improve rental housing by educating tenants and landlords about issues and responsibilities, and he plans to apply what he’s learned to issues in his hometown.

Nearly one of every three Muncie residents lives in a rental property. Shetterley is working with the 8-12 Coalition, a group that brings together residents, nonprofits, and businesses in an effort to revitalize the area bordered by Eighth Street, Memorial Street, Perkins Avenue, and Madison Street.

Through an immersive learning course led by John West, assistant professor of urban planning, students are working directly with community members and providing tenants and landlords with crucial information about rental properties, such as security deposit discrepancies. They are creating an action-oriented resource book that will serve as a tool to train local housing counselors on the various issues with rental housing.

“I want my students to learn substantive knowledge about rental housing problems and resources, as well as how to carry out engaged research,” West said.

Shetterley, who is in his first year of pursuing his master’s degree in public administration, is focusing on the common myths about renting and rental properties to include in the resource book, such as withholding rent money until broken amenities are repaired.

“This project is giving me opportunities to engage in the community in a meaningful way, while helping me to identify problems and solutions to various issues within rental housing,” Shetterley said. “Overall, this experience has prepared me with the necessary social skills and understanding of local state code and politics.”

After finishing graduate school, Shetterley would like to return to Pendleton and become involved with local politics, possibly serving on a town council and participate in community planning and organizing.

“During my time at Ball State, I was able to find volunteer and leadership opportunities at every turn,” Shetterley said. “These opportunities have given me skills in management, leadership, public speaking, team collaboration, and real-world experience.”

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