Student Housing: Big number of new residents settling in city

Written by Chase Eckerdt for

Fort Collins hasn’t become a world-class community because we are afraid of tackling challenges.

Our ambition, forward thinking, and sense of community has turned a dusty college town into one of the premier communities in the country. However, it is important to remember that our progress brings a new set of challenges that this community must rise to meet.

Large numbers of new residents are settling into Fort Collins, students especially, because this is such a special place to call home. When I was a freshman in 2007, there was a total university enrollment of 27,569. Now, that has jumped dramatically to an enrollment of 29,932, with more coming this fall.

It’s easy to simply say CSU should discontinue adding large numbers of students year to year, but this kind of growth is happening to all of Fort Collins, so this issue reaches beyond students.

What has made the student population explosion unique is that our large numbers and rapid increases are changing the character of long-established neighborhoods. Regardless of how people feel about the cities’ “three-unrelated” policy, what we all have to agree on is that it, coupled with other factors, have created two fundamental problems we need to address.

First, it has restricted the housing market, forcing students to spread out further and further from campus, thus impacting more neighborhoods.

Second, there is an increasing shortage of rental housing in Fort Collins, meaning prices are going up.

Now, some students might be able to fork over a few extra dollars, but for low-income families who compete with students in the rental market, this is probably not an option.

The Coloradoan reported May 12 that the vacancy rate this year has dropped to 4 percent compared with 4.9 percent a year ago, and the average cost of rent rose 7.5 percent in the same year-to-year statistics.

I remember the arguments during the “three-unrelated” debate, and I was inspired by how many neighbors, who supported “three unrelated,” also supported increasing housing options for students.

Many talked about how crucial it is to build new apartment complexes to give students greater choice in where they live, possibly shifting some students out of single-family neighborhoods.

Where are those voices now?

If neighbors want to help preserve single-family neighborhoods, we have to increase housing options. Yet, when major student housing developments come to Fort Collins, they have been met with fierce opposition by many of the same people who, several years ago, talked so forcefully in support of more student housing.

CSU adding more beds on campus is a step in the right direction, but it is only half of the equation, and it is irresponsible to assume this will be the solution to all of our housing problems.

So, I encourage everyone who cares about preserving single-family neighborhoods and preserving the character of Fort Collins to come and voice support for more student housing options to the Planning and Zoning Board on June 16 and future City Council meetings.

We must show we are true to our character and willing to tackle the most divisive and difficult issues presented to us. After all, that’s why everyone wants to live here in the first place.

[coloradoan.com]

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