Opinion

Make up for lost housing

As Peabody is demolished, the university should acknowledge the lack of on-campus housing.

During winter break, Peabody Hall will be demolished — taking away 287 potential student housing beds. It is not decided what will replace the residence hall, the Vice President of Planning and Capital Projects Jerry Leva told The Temple News.

We encourage the university to keep the lack of on-campus student housing for its growing student body population in mind when planning future construction.

When the university built Peabody in 1957, Temple had 17,842 students, and only half were full-time. There were nearly 33,000 students enrolled on Main Campus in 2015, according to the 2015 Student Profile. Only 5,700 beds are offered through Residential Life on Main Campus.

Temple contracts with off-campus complexes, like The Edge and Beech International Village, to accommodate more students. But 40 first-year students were assigned to overflow housing in places like resident assistants’ rooms and J&H common lounges at the beginning of this semester.

Even as Temple set records for the most applications four years in a row, incoming students should not have to worry about being displaced because the university does not have the proper accommodations.

It is also essential Temple realizes that when the number of residence halls decreases, more students leave Main Campus to find a place to live. About 7,000 students already live in the surrounding North Philadelphia area,  and it’s possible there’s more than that, Sean Killion, an associate director in the Office of Residential Life, told The Temple News in April 2017. This push further intrudes on a neighborhood established long before Temple.

The influx of students living in the neighborhood has led to a shift in demographics and property values in the neighborhood.

According to “Philadelphia’s Changing Neighborhoods,” a 2016 report by Pew Charitable Trusts, three census tracts that Main Campus makes up were predominantly Black in 2000, but not in 2014. The report also states that median sale price of residences west of Main Campus rose from $11,250 in 2000-01 to $140,000 in 2013-14 due to the development of off-campus student housing, which pushes longtime residents out of their homes because of rising property values.

Students’ increased presence in the neighborhood has also caused residents and neighborhood groups like the Yorktown Community Organization to complain about noise, trash and fewer available parking spaces.

The university must take the size of its student body and burgeoning presence in the surrounding community into account during the planning of future projects.

Although the university can’t control students who choose to live in off-campus residences, it can make conscious choices regarding future construction to hopefully prevent the amount of students who are forced to live in the surrounding North Philadelphia area.

This is especially urgent since the building replacing Peabody may not be entirely dedicated to housing for students, Leva told The Temple News. Its purpose is not yet determined, but officials are discussing the possibility of constructing a multi-use space that would host classroom space, administrative offices and some student housing. With such a pervasive need for on-campus housing, a multi-use space may not cut it.

An increase in interested students is positive for Temple, and we don’t discourage further outreach to incoming students to expose them to what the university offers.

We just hope when they come here, Temple has a place to put them.

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