Our view: Duluth far from alone on student housing issues
This news report should sound familiar: The city "is taking steps to crack down on one of many neighborhood complaints: homeowners moving out and converting their properties into student rental housing. ... On Wednesday, the City Council passed a...
This news report should sound familiar: The city "is taking steps to crack down on one of many neighborhood complaints: homeowners moving out and converting their properties into student rental housing. ... On Wednesday, the City Council passed a temporary measure banning property owners from converting their homes into student apartments."
Familiar, except that the city isn't the city of Duluth but the city of St. Paul, the neighborhood isn't anywhere near the University of Minnesota Duluth or College of St. Scholastica but is near the University of St. Thomas, and the newspaper that filed this report last week wasn't the News Tribune but the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The story is a timely reminder that Duluth is far from the only college town struggling on an ongoing basis with the oft-uneasy relations between longtime neighborhood homeowners and just-moved-in-and-about-to-move-out college renters. Parking, partying and other problems muddy community-campus relations, too often deteriorating into us-vs.-them mind-sets and battles.
St. Paul and the University of St. Thomas are going through it now because only 44 percent of the school's undergraduates live on campus; about 1,700 are in nearby apartments, some of those rentals carved from what once were single-family homes.
Duluth has been going through it since about 2001, when college enrollments started their climb to a
30 percent increase in a single decade. More students equaled more strain on, and sudden changes to, campus-area neighborhoods.
St. Paul's moratorium on converting single-family homes into rentals? Duluth tried that. A more comprehensive, bigger-picture strategy is being pursued now with city leaders and neighborhood residents working together. A "small-area plan" is being created for Duluth's campus neighborhoods, a plan with promise that would build on and offer more specifics than the city's 2006 Comprehensive Land Use Plan. An initial meeting about the plan was packed. The turnout was "great," according to Beth Post, a campus-area homeowner. "Very cool," she reported to the News Tribune Opinion page.
Will Duluth's small-area plan work? Be assured University of St. Thomas officials, St. Paul city leaders and others will be watching for the news reports. No college town faces these challenges alone.