Housing stirs development

Click here to read about factors in off-campus housing in this two-part series.

Jen Singley, a sophomore business major, moved into her apartment on North 17th Street in August 2010. Singley, who pays approximately $600 per month, plus utilities, has never met her landlord.

“There are five of us living there with four bedrooms,” Singley said. “So, in a year, we total in around $36,000.”

Realtors and contractors are increasingly building, buying and renovating off-campus housing to keep up with the rising volume of Temple students moving to residential apartments in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Landlords and local residents said the situation is not unique to Temple, due to college campuses traditionally drawing attention to realtors and developers looking to “cash in” on the student market.

But Temple, which used to be recognized as a commuter school, has rapidly become a school with on-campus housing, which is not guaranteed, though students are eligible for on-campus housing all four years. Many students who aren’t capable of commuting and aren’t guaranteed on-campus housing flock to the immediately surrounding neighborhoods to rent.

TempleTown, a local realty company, owns approximately 300 properties in the surrounding area.

“We have students and community members living in our rental apartments,” said Star Docasan, a TempleTown employee. “We’re in compliance with fair housing, so we do not discriminate with who rents from us. Everyone gets equal rent depending on which property they’re interested in.”

One of TempleTown’s properties, a five-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment at 1732 Sydenham St., rents for $2,875 a month; utilities are not included.

Maze Group Development owns a similar property for rent on the 1800 block of Willington Street. Herb Reid of Maze Group said the company bought the property for about $12,500 in 2004.

Rent for the Maze Group property averages around $600 with utilities included. Since the property is a seven-bedroom, the company averages around $50,000 a year in rent. For that property, profit for one year is approximately $37,500.

“We have generally students living in all of our apartments,” Reid said. “We haven’t had any inquiries for community residents interested in renting any of our properties.”

Sophomore finance major Jack Hunsicker said it’s his first year renting at 18th and Norris streets.

“It’s nice and everything,” he said. “We have some issues with our landlord because he’s pretty young and we’re one of his first tenants. I’m sure down the next few years he’ll be better. We’re still working out some kinks.”

Realtor agencies and landlords are responding to the rising business in the Temple neighborhood, and while students are willing to pay the price, North Philadelphia resident Jonnie Lee, 68, said community members are not.

“The landlords and companies in the area are just trying to make a quick dollar off of these kids,” Lee said. “The community is getting smaller and smaller – we’re not going to pay that price.”

“I don’t think it’s right for landlords to be raising the rent,” said Nellie Williams, 70, of the North Philadelphia area. “The students are here to learn, the high rents are outrageous and it isn’t fair for them or the community members who can’t afford to live here anymore. They’re being forced out. It isn’t right.”

Although the rundown, abandoned apartments can add disdain to the community, the new revitalization comes at a cost to both students and long-time residents.

At 1843 Willington St., a zoning notice was recently posted to inform residents of a new three-story building that will soon be constructed.

Along 16th Street, Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency is revitalizing at least seven apartments for community members. Many students occupy housing on 16th Street because of its close proximity to Main Campus.

“I rent some properties of 17th and 18th streets – a ton of students have rented from me,” said Eugene Thomas, 51, of the 1700 block of North Bouvier Street.

Thomas’ apartment is valued at $41,500, according to Philadelphia’s city data.

Because many students have been renting and moving off campus, many landlords and realtors prefer students living in their apartments to help “keep the peace.”

“Student’s keep awkward hours,” said Croy Blake from Professional Realty. “We usually like to put all students in a building rather than have a family on one side and students on another.”

Alyssa Saylor can be reached at alyssa.saylor@temple.edu.

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