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Critics wonder whether Duluth's rental problems will change

Landlords in college neighborhoods who joined to fight a limit on the number of students living in a single house said Tuesday they still plan to help solve problems in those neighborhoods.

Landlords in college neighborhoods who joined to fight a limit on the number of students living in a single house said Tuesday they still plan to help solve problems in those neighborhoods.

The Duluth Association for Responsible Rentals will meet at 10 a.m. Friday on the third floor of the Technology Village, 11 E. Superior St., Duluth. The group invites anyone interested in the issue to attend.

But now that the ordinance that spurred the landlord group's birth is dead, skeptics already predict the group's demise.

The Duluth City Council voted 7-2 Monday night against reducing the number of unrelated people who can live in the same home from six to four in single-family neighborhoods.

"It's absolutely a positive thing that was brought to the forefront," said Blake Shippee, spokesman for the landlords' group. Though nothing is finalized, DARR members are considering several ideas to help clean up the trash, loud parties and parking issues in the neighborhoods around the University of Minnesota Duluth and the College of St. Scholastica.

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Proposals include putting a sign or sticker in the front yard of each home owned by a member of the group. The sticker would include a phone number and e-mail address so neighbors could communicate about an incident or problem occurring at a rental.

Members would then try to correct the problem without the city or police needing to get involved.

Another idea of DARR's is to return a larger share of the deposit to student renters if police aren't called to the home during the school year.

While some long-term residents in the college neighborhoods said Wednesday they're pleased that they'll be able to call the landlords' group with a problem, others doubted DARR would accomplish much.

Shippee bristled at that criticism, saying instead of sitting back and judging, they ought to get involved. "It's a little disconcerting to me that they aren't giving us any faith, or wanting to work with us," he said.

Even Joe Kleiman, a Duluth landlord since the early 1970s, sounded skeptical that the new group would prove effective, though he hoped for the best.

"When the crisis is gone, then people forget about it," Kleiman said. He thinks the solution to neighbors' concerns about property maintenance, loud parties and parking problems is for the city to enforce the current rules.

Shippee said problems with students aren't just the responsibility of the people who rent homes to them.

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"This is not just a landlord issue," he said.

And that's why he and other members of the more than 30 landlords and property managers want to expand the group to include neighbors, students, city councilors and officials from UMD and St. Scholastica.

Members of the group Campus Neighbors, made up of residents of neighborhoods surrounding UMD and St. Scholastica, aren't publicly commenting on DARR, saying they'd rather wait to see if the group delivers.

Susan Beasy Latto, director of public relations for UMD, said she wasn't sure if anyone from her college would attend Friday's meeting.

Several councilors criticized the colleges for not being more involved in dealing with problems they helped create.

"UMD has been meeting since 2004 with some members of the City Council regarding rental issues as they concern students," Beasy Latto said.

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