Renting Around St. Paul Universities May Get Much Harder
In the Mac-Groveland and Merriam Park neighborhoods of St. Paul, residents are unhappy with the number of homes college students rent.
This week the St. Paul City Council will vote on an ordinance limiting the number of rental homes available to Macalester and St. Thomas students. The ordinance states that no new rental properties intended for students could be closer than 150 feet to another rental property.
Many in the community are fed up with students living next door. As one homeowner put it, “I enjoy having neighbors. I enjoy having young neighbors, but I don’t enjoy the parties, the beer, the noise, being woke up in the middle of the night.” The ordinance, however, will not necessarily solve the problem entirely.
As the University of St. Thomas and Macalester continue to grow, more students will turn to off- campus housing. This combined with a reduction of available properties around the schools creates a more competitive market, forcing students to move farther away from campus and into other neighborhoods. This also drives up rental costs for working families, seniors and other young people.
It is this fear, that the ordinance would only move the problem and in the process take affordable rental homes away from families, which led to the St. Paul Planning Commission’s vote against the proposed ordinance in May.
The ordinance also does little to maintain a strong community-university relationship. “We appreciate their concerns…[but] if [the ordinance is] good public policy for St. Thomas, then why not have similar kinds of districts throughout the city?” Doug Henness, a University of St. Thomas representative, recently said in an interview.
With Macalester and St. Thomas in such close proximity, there is a very high concentration of students living in the area, but Mac-Groveland and Merriam Park are not the only neighborhoods near a college or university. One or two schools should not be singled out.
Homeowners' concerns are critical neighborhood issues and need addressing, but the legal action that has been taken is dividing a community. As Mac-Groveland and Merriam Park become less welcoming towards student rentals and students are forced to find housing farther away from campus, the city will have to tackle more complex problem elsewhere.