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Neighborhood officials react to idea of extended housing requirement at SU

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SU officials announced the possibility of switching the on-campus housing requirement from two to three years at last week’s Campus Framework open forum.

Renovated houses, a revitalized neighborhood and homeowner stability.

That is the future Michael Flusche, retired associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at Syracuse University, sees for residential areas surrounding SU if the administration chooses to extend the on-campus housing requirement for students.

SU officials announced the possibility of switching the on-campus housing requirement from two to three years at last week’s Campus Framework open forum. Current policy states that all non-commuter students are required to live on campus for two years, but can get a waiver if they choose to live in Greek housing their second year.

Flusche said the three-year on-campus housing requirement is long overdue. Having more students living on campus will assist in a positive educational experience, he said. But neighborhood officials and landlords are split over what the requirement would mean for students and for residential areas near the university.

Senior Vice President for Public Affairs Kevin Quinn said in a statement to The Daily Orange that a change in the housing requirement is currently only an idea, but added that research suggests students who live in on-campus housing are more engaged in campus social life, perform better academically and are more satisfied with their overall university experience.

Many of SU’s peer universities have a three-year on-campus housing requirement, including Duke University, George Washington University and Georgetown University, Quinn said.

If implemented, he said the requirement would apply to new, incoming students and would not affect commuter students. It would likely take multiple academic years to fully implement the change, Quinn said. SU is working to develop a process to assess the feasibility and implications of such a requirement.

“That process will include significant opportunity for key constituencies — both on and off campus — to provide input, ask questions and share perspectives,” Quinn said.

Ben Tupper, landlord and owner of Rent from Ben, said an extended housing requirement is the “worst idea ever.” Limiting students to on-campus housing may take away student freedom and the evolution of independence, he said.

In looking for apartments and being responsible for groceries and utility bills, students learn to manage their personal affairs as young adults, Tupper said. Students should make mistakes now because landlords treat them with “kid gloves,” something that won’t happen after graduation, he added.

Jared Hutter, manager of BLVD Equities, said the change could hinder the student experience, but he believes communication between the university and area developers will be essential moving forward.

BLVD Equities created the luxury student housing complex #BLVD404, now known as U Point Syracuse, and is currently the developer behind the South Crouse Avenue housing project. He said an extended housing requirement may deter some developers from building in the SU area.

“If you told me that Syracuse was implementing a three-year program tomorrow, I’d still move ahead with my project,” Hutter said. “But maybe other people may not, depending on where their locations are and the size of their project.”

Off-campus houses that were converted into student housing would feel the effect of the extension first, Hutter said, rather than luxury student apartment buildings.

Tupper, who rents out houses adjacent to SU, said the outer-ring of student housing near Westcott Street would see a loss in tenants as undergrads move to on-campus housing. Fourth-year and graduate students would then occupy the space closer to the university.

There is no new demographic eager to fill in the vacancies, he said, so empty houses may be boarded up or converted to “Section 8” housing for low-income tenants, which could add dysfunction to the neighborhood.

But Flusche, the retired SU employee, is more optimistic. With proper planning and effort by the city and the university, he said houses could be restored and the neighborhood could become reestablished.

Flusche has lived on Lancaster Avenue since the 1970s, when the neighborhood was dominated by families rather than students, and he said he could see that happening again.

“The transition could be quite positive,” Flusche said. “… I am not convinced it is going to have the disastrous consequences some people think it will have.”

David Michel, president of the University Neighborhood Preservation Association, is also optimistic. He sees the change as an opportunity to increase levels of owner-occupancy.

The UNPA will be meeting with other area organizations to discuss what steps may be taken to mitigate the potential negative effects of an extended housing requirement, such as an increase in vacancies, he said.

The opportunity to bring a mix of students, faculty and hospital employees to neighborhoods surrounding the Hill could strengthen the area, said Mike Stanton, president of the Southeast University Neighborhood Association.

Stanton said he doesn’t think the neighborhood or local businesses will suffer if the requirement is changed. Students frequent Westcott Street-area businesses, but permanent residents would take their place as customers, he said. He cited the Hawley-Green and Eastwood neighborhoods as area business districts that don’t rely on students for support.

Neighborhoods will have to work with the city and SU to try to backfill the houses left vacant by students, Stanton said. Redeveloping the houses in clusters would be a good start to bring families to the neighborhood, he said.

“There has always been conflict in our neighborhood between people who work on the Hill and would like to live nearby, and students who go to school on the Hill and want to be near the university,” Stanton said. “But it looks like we’re getting to a situation now where we can have both groups living on the Hill.”

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