UISG Makes Statement at City Council Meeting on Off-Campus Student Housing

On Tuesday June 20, UISG City Council Liaison Benjamin Nelson issued a statement at the City Council Meeting urging the council to maintain appropriate conditions for students living off-campus. You can read Nelson's full statement below:

 

In light of recent state legislation that prohibits cities from regulating apartment occupancy limits based on familial status, the City will be considering a number of measures meant to “stabilize” neighborhoods from becoming predominantly rental units.

I find it troublesome that student prevalence within the surrounding community is often met with lamentation within this chamber. During the June 6th worksession, it was remarked that neighborhoods that consist primarily of student rental housing were deemed “lost” and that the goal of the City’s policies moving forward should be to “save” those neighborhoods that are not quite lost. I would caution against this sort of mentality moving forward, as that kind of rhetoric suggests that students are a homogenous group that intentionally sack neighborhoods, and that they are not deserving, or less deserving, of living in housing in the community and it does not do justice to the positive economic and cultural impact students have on our community.

During the fall and spring semesters, our community swells to the tune of twenty-four thousand undergraduate students. These students are bright, enthusiastic and are dedicated to getting an education to better society. They study hard, they do research, they join clubs, they volunteer for organizations (e.g, crisis center, hospital, etc.), and contribute to the overall well-being of the university and the community. Of course, as with any sizeable population, there will be a few bad apples, a few loud apartments, a few littered beer cans, and we would concede those individuals are poor neighbors. But they’re also the most visible neighbors and by no means represent the student body. Within a certain perimeter from the University it is likely that a majority of your neighbors are also students, but they’re not given that recognition.

As council and staff move forward with their considerations, we urge that realistic and pragmatic expectations are maintained regarding the housing environments surrounding the University core. In the same way the University has an obligation to its students to provide housing where and when it can; so, too, does the City have an obligation to promote appropriate housing for its residents where it is necessary and that includes housing available to students in neighborhoods adjacent to their school. Indeed, student housing is not simply a University issue or a City issue but should instead be highly collaborative between both institutions.

To that end, the University of Iowa Student Government is committed to both good neighbor practices and improving the current student housing situation. Soon we will be engaged in the housing market study, and at the moment we are analyzing data from the University’s Affordable Housing Survey conducted last semester. Over the summer, we plan to establish a task force of campus partners to improve support and resources for students who live off campus. The task force will discuss a range of topics, from rental advising to food insecurity to good neighbor practices. And finally, we have expressed our need for secure locks on housing and for background checks for employees of property management companies.

Housing markets are intricate and long-term problems that require an honest effort from all the parties involved. UISG looks forward to working with the City to tackle these problems and to improve the community that both students and long-term residents share.