Your local blogger was awakened last night at 3:30 A.M. and hopefully not by the wave of the future. A well dressed young man was punching his well dressed date/companion in the head and left her on her tree lawn of the neighbor’s house while he threatened to kick the shit out of the intervening neighbor next door.

So, while talking to the 911 operator the conversation was white female, black cocktail dress, very muscular white male, early twenties, short hair, ball cap, both highly inebriated it dawned on me it was my first student call to the police. And then the police searched the neighborhood for them as it poured and the sound of techno came from over on Summit Street. I could have made a noise complaint too but it was the same as it ever was with a different demographic.

It will be great when more students move to Weinland Park

An often heard refrain, usually from people who live nowhere near students. But Weinland Park and students is moving to the fore lately. As the neighborhood becomes safer Ohio State students are starting to move farther east.  And it’s a toss-up whether the neighborhood is any better if you have to live next a loud, dirty, unmaintained crack house or a loud, dirty, unmaintained student house.  There are some trade-offs. Students don’t get in gunfights but gangsters don’t play techno till four and beat up their girlfriends in my yard.*

So what to do about it. There’s no better meeting stopper than mentioning down-zoning.  Basically it means converting and keeping the neighborhood single-family residential with an emphasis on owner-occupied. Permutations can include requiring houses that were previously subdivided by variance to go back to single family zoning status after being abandoned, sold, foreclosed, having major renovations, or sustaining major damage.

This makes perfect sense unless you’re an absentee landlord making $400 dollars a bed for a student rental. A good sized Foursquare can have ten students packed in for a gross income of $4,000 per month. This is easy money if you live in Bexley or another neighborhood where couch burning on game day is not met with general approbation. And unlike running a  crack house you can be a leading member of the community. But it’s incredibly unpleasant to live near. You may notice that owners of student rentals usually live elsewhere.

                                 Probably caused by a spirited discussion of Ovid over tea gone horribly wrong

Don’t say it…He said it again….

Since any mention of down-zoning and regulating student housing gets roughly the same look as announcing that you’re starting a uranium mine, you’re crazy then disbelief followed by the no way in hell look, one can quickly ascertain the current viability of the issue. There’s too much money sloshing around the student rental business to have it messed up by urban planning and neighborhood revitalization. So, what happens after the Weinland Park Collaborative pumps $15,000,000 into the neighborhood and student housing increases? And any landlord would be crazy to pass up the easy money/low maintenance paradigm that make student housing so lucrative. There also has to be a tipping point of student rentals that inhibits single family home sales. And all that is going to result in some major displacement without gentrification.

Treddyffin Township in Chester County, PA has passed an ordinance concerning student housing. They have to be registered with a way to contact the owner rather than having to figure out who owns EZmoney LLC. No more than three students may live in a house and the student houses must have 20 times the minimum lot width as the shortest distance between two student rentals. In Weinland Park that would be around 700 feet. In addition, there must be at least one parking spot for each tenant that does not impinge on the lawn. The lawn and the distance sets the stage for some social expectations in the neighborhood for some type of civil behavior.

All this regulation and extra enforcement sounds expensive. It sure does and the University of Albany student neighbors are working on a great idea. Since universities and other non-profits don’t pay taxes but still use services like police, fire, and trash pickup there is a plan to have payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to give back to the community. This could fund extra code enforcement, noise enforcement and a myriad of other problems caused by students.

                                                 Campus area green$pace

At some time the projected demographic is going to have to be figured out and zoned and regulated into place before the market just kicks in. After all zoning got Weinland Park where it is today and zoning is going to have to get us out. But making a viable neighborhood is going to be difficult when there is more money to be made by not having a viable neighborhood for people who don’t live here. Which makes zoning changes and regulating student housing a little more attractive if you live here.

*Anecdotal and personal observation