Thursday, April 5, 2007

seniors on the street: college park's housing crisis (updated)

BUT FIRST: Why are some East County kids being bused eight miles away for school? read more.

Years of rising enrollment and the increasing popularity of College Park to students and families alike have finally taken their toll: According to today's Diamondback, the University of Maryland has kicked the entire rising senior class out of on-campus housing this week, sending over six hundred students out into the streets of College Park with only a minute's notice to find a place to live next year.

The City of College Park has a very small vacancy rate, as I personally found out earlier this semester while looking for a house off-campus with a few friends. Most homes in the City are passed down to younger students as older students graduate, making it hard for transfers to find a place to live. And despite the addition of several new student apartment complexes - including a building re-opening this fall - there remain thousands of students, from incoming freshmen to seniors, who don't have any guarantee of housing either on- or off-campus.

It's hard to call this a "housing crisis" when College Park is but one city in a metropolitan area of five million people, but the improving reputation of both the University and the City have made it an increasingly attractive place to live. Students can move elsewhere - and they had, for years - but the convenience of living near the activity of campus has finally trumped the desire for privacy or cheaper rents. Call it "back to the city" for College Park, if you will.

The University runs commuter shuttle bus routes as far as Burtonsville, New Carrollton and Silver Spring, an especially popular area for students to commute from. When my mother returned to college after I was born, we moved from to Downtown Silver Spring so she could commute to College Park. And today, I frequently drive past the shuttle bus that runs to Powder Mill Village apartments in Calverton. Last year, it was almost discontinued due to low ridership - but will an exodus from on-campus housing make it a student outpost once again?

"Student sprawl" from College Park hurts everyone. It hurts efforts to create a "campus community" in town while turning quiet suburbs and apartments elsewhere into beer-and-music fueled mini-dorms, to the chagrin of working families. It makes traffic on local roads twice as worse during rush hour, and it makes what little student housing is available in College Park increasingly unaffordable.

The University hasn't built new student housing in twenty-five years, and the "explosion" of new developments approved by the City Council are solely geared to the yuppie-and-retiree set. What about the students - the "College" in "College Park"? Someone's got to take responsibility for student housing, lest the effects be felt throughout the area.

For more extensive coverage, check out Rethink College Park.


Eric Fidler said...

The City Council of College Park is responsible for some of the crisis:

-It has imposed rent control specifically to reduce the number of rental properties.

-It has forced owner-occupancy requirements on new development specifically to exclude student renters.

-It is urging the state to sharply reduce current tax incentives so as to discourage private developers from build more student housing.

Furthermore, the state law precludes the University from taking on debt to finance student housing on campus.

Why is the lack of housing a surprise to anyone? Read more about it.

Terry in Silver Spring said...

I actually dread the beginning of the fall term. My apartment complex in Silver Spring gets an influx of students from a number of the universities in the area (not just UMd). The first month or so, there are groups of students who don't realize that they are expected to behave as adults...not as they would in the dorms. There's a change, then, as the wild ones either move on or are sent packing. The remaining students (those with either a bit more maturity or some basic sense) then settle in as a part of the community.

In the past, you could expect to find a high concentration of college students in certain complexes near the campuses (Spring hill Lake, for instance), but that's changing more and more each year.

Given your post, I'm not looking forward to the fall influx. We may be getting a whole lot more than in previous years. I'm going to need ear plugs.

ihateyuppies said...

Terry and I live in Summit Hills. Yes, I share his dread of incoming students moving into the apartment complex. They have loud parties and I always see those kids bring in tons of beer and liquor. There have been cases when the Summit Hills leasing office had to throw these wild kids off the property.

The only silver lining is that renting in Silver Spring is becoming an expensive proposition for the student (his parents' budget). I think you will see more UMD students looking for cheaper living environs in Hyattsville and other locations in PG county.

I always wondered why so many UMD students live in Silver Spring. Now I know the reason.

sanjay said...

A good percentage of College Park students originated from commuting distance of the school, they can always live with their parents. Those that are coming from out of state are already emptying out their pockets so they probably can afford a nice apartment in the area. I don't think its that serious of a situation. Where I went to school they kicked you out of the dorms in your junior year.

PGCist said...

The new rent controls in College Park are to blame, and I'm getting a bit nervous about the influx of student renters to University Park. I know a number of homes and few vacant lots have been recently purchased by out of state speculators - for rental purposes, I assume.

Also, some rental properties on US-1 have already been cited by the town & county for overcrowding. One home had more than 12 tenants, most of whom were students.