It’s that time of the year when you, hopeful student, might be on hunt for that perfect North Philly house or apartment to comfortably live for next semester. You need somewhere quiet and calm, which is off-campus, if you don’t mind the jarring rap music that often swells streets when you might be trying to sleep before a big exam the next day. You want somewhere that’s close to campus and somewhere you feel safe, although you may prefer to be close in proximity to campus, so you don’t mind checking your back back every few feet that night you have to walk back from Paley library at 2 a.m. And you’re going to want somewhere that’s relatively inexpensive, but don’t mind the $650-a-month rent for a house or $800-a-month for an apartment, a big price for North Philadelphia, but worth being able to wake up 10 minutes before your morning class.
Personally, I’m graduating and am going to miss my high rise luxury condo in North Philadelphia – you know, the building sandwiched in the middle of the boarded-up crack house and the trash-filled empty lot, across the street from where developers are currently building new houses and don’t use silk screens on fences to trap dust and ignorantly dump concrete into the sewage drain. You might have tasted it in the water, even after using your fancy Brita, you snobby college brat.
Up until this point, I’m being entirely sarcastic. Temple students are generally, save for a sorority or three, savvy, low-maintenance kids on a budget who enjoy a little fun and work hard. And while times have recently been tough for our wallets, especially because of Gov. Tom Corbett and Pennsylvania’s state legislators, who continue to significantly cut funding for higher education, a certain city councilman wants to hit us up for even more.
City Council President Darrell Clarke – who represents the same district where Temple sits and where most of its off-campus students live – wants students to pay for extra security, cleaning and other improvements around neighborhoods that surround Temple.
“What I want to make sure is that people understand that this was created as a result of significant concerns by members of the community based on the activities of student housing and the students that live within the housing. Period,” Clarke said at a hearing on the NCNID last week.
Specifically, Clarke has proposed what’s called the North Central Neighborhood Improvement District, which is a legal body of appointed landlords and a single Temple representative. The NCNID would impose an extra fee on the property taxes of apartments or houses within the boundaries of the areas between Broad and 19th streets and York Street to Girard Avenue, along with five smaller pockets of houses and apartments.
Landlords will pass the fee onto students who rent those apartments.
The lack of a contiguous border creates a predatory tax that targets students, who are unfairly blamed for the city’s own disregard of the neighborhood.
This is wrong for a few reasons. First and foremost, the city should already be providing the services the NCNID sets out to do. Students shouldn’t feel unsafe to walk home just because it’s four blocks from campus. Students shouldn’t be living in a filthy neighborhood where ignorant developers can get away with just about anything because the city fails to do its job. And students should not be treated like underprivileged and unequal constituents that have to take out a larger or, in some cases, another, loan to pay the extra 10 percent on housing that the NCNID could seek, as the bill states.
Second, students didn’t make the mess, or at least, not most of it, and therefore shouldn’t be the ones to pay for everything. Students shouldn’t be the ones to have to pay for extra services, like safety and cleaning because students aren’t the ones robbing houses and shooting innocent people or throwing trash on sidewalks or in lots.
But above all else, Clarke and his cronies behind the NCNID undermine the very good that Temple provides its surrounding communities. According to a recent economic impact survey, Temple provides about $3.7 billion to the city and generates 34,000 jobs. Students are already paying into the neighborhood. We don’t want to pay any more and we don’t need to. North Philadelphia isn’t anything special.
Unfortunately, it appears like City Council will pass the NCNID before it recesses for summer in a few months. Students, you can avoid Clarke’s arrogance and withhold from paying into North Philly any more than you have to. Leave North Philly. Explore a new part of the city. Go to Fairmount. South Philly is way cheaper and loads nicer. Maybe even use the extra money you would be paying into the NCNID and get a nice place in Center City. At least the NCNID there targets everyone.
Matthew Petrillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.