Student housing offers unique challenges

Penn State Altoona and its students are an integral part of the city.

The Mirror reported on the efforts of students Austin Fink and Dave Stewart to become involved in city government affairs. I’m certain Altoona will welcome that involvement.

Fink, addressing city council, expressed disdain for the city housing regulations limiting the density of student housing. I would like to explain the reasoning behind these regulations.

Student housing presents some unique problems for a city. The tenants are generally temporary residents, being in place for nine months. The amount of their rent is determined by the student educational lending programs, not the local housing market.

Student housing is a lucrative and profitable business providing a real boost to the local economy.

The problem arises when student housing displaces permanent residents. The market for student housing increases the profitability of converting permanent housing to student housing.

Student housing alone is not a problem, but when it becomes concentrated the neighborhood disappears. It is replaced with the equivalent of the barracks of an army base which are vacant part of the year. This is how student slum is created.

The American Planning Association has extensive literature on this issue.

The solution to this problem is to avoid a concentration of student housing, and integrate that housing into the existing residential neighborhoods.

The student housing then becomes part of the neighborhood fabric and the students are integrated into the community, not displacing the existing residents. Student slums are avoided and neighborhoods are preserved.

Altoona is a college town.

The student population is growing and the income from that population is very beneficial to the local economy. Penn State Altoona has made substantial investment in downtown Altoona.

The college and its students are helping maintain the viability of the city. The student housing regulations help the students become an integral part of the city neighborhoods.

Lawrence D. Carter