Our housing plight deserves empathy

“Do any of you guys have beds that we can just temporarily remove?” my landlord asked. “Or ones we can just make look like sofas? Tell them the landlord lives downstairs. If they come to

“Do any of you guys have beds that we can just temporarily remove?” my landlord asked. “Or ones we can just make look like sofas? Tell them the landlord lives downstairs. If they come to the door, just say all five of you are cousins.”

I was still trying to wipe the creepy image of my landlord actually being my roommate out of my mind when a lawyer’s business card was shoved in my hand.

“Just call that if they come.” Great. So when the Department of Licenses and Inspections comes to my house again, I am supposed to be sitting on a bed/sofa in my “landlord’s room” chatting it up with my four pseudo-cousins. Not exactly my ideal situation.

But it is a typical situation for students who live off-campus.

Students are set for their freshman year. They are placed in a dorm room with no problems. Sophomore year, they are slightly uncertain when they enter a lottery to hopefully get a spot in on-campus housing. Then junior year, they are banking on Craigslist to avoid sleeping in a box on Broad Street.

Sure, Temple’s Office of University Housing aids students in finding off-campus. But when they can’t rely on a last-minute lease, they turn to those houses on the edge of campus.

These unknowing students think they just hit the jackpot: no security, no card swipe, no guest sign-in policy. Just pure freedom.

Not exactly. It’s more like angry neighbors, dirty looks and vandalized cars. Let’s just say homemade cookies weren’t winning over my neighbors.

I, probably along with many other Temple
students, live in Yorktown. This area is north of Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Oxford Street and is west of 13th Street, between Jefferson and Oxford streets.

An amendment to Title 14 of the Philadelphia Code relating to “Zoning and Planning” introduced Oct. 14, 2004, states that all houses within this community are prohibited to be used as “rooming” houses.

I was informed of this by the Department
of Licenses and Inspections representative
that knocked on my door several weeks ago. It is defined as a house being rented to more than three unrelated people.

This law states that converting “single-family” houses into rooming houses “changes the character of this community and over-burdens local blocks with excess vehicles and limited parking spaces.” Are student renters “lowering the quality of life for existing homeowners in the Yorktown community?” I pay rent, I am pleasant and I don’t do harm. But I don’t have the right to live in a house on a “single-family” street with schoolmates
because my 1997 Honda is a threat to the quality of the neighborhood? Call the cops on the blonde unlocking her car.

Junior kinesiology major Adam Adelson,
who lives in Yorktown, has been dodging neighbors’ complaints since he moved into his off-campus house last semester.

“We got the police called on us once because a car was parked in a neighbor’s spot and they thought it was one of ours,” Adelson said. “Because that person has been parking there for years, it was considered their spot.”

Having a run-in with the cops is as bad as the maple syrup coat and key marks I found on my car after parking in a “neighbor’s spot.” So since this is a recognized law, and a law I was not informed of when I signed my lease, is it not right for landlords to continue renting these houses to unknowing students?

If the city of Philadelphia is going to support Temple and the growth of its student population, sensitivity to their living situations should be granted as well.

Temple can’t provide housing, but now the nearby streets can’t either. Something’s got to give and students are soon going to find out, if they haven’t already, that neighborhood families are not giving up without a fight. I just hope next time they leave my car out of it.

Michelle Sears can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. Michelle, it seems as if you are more angry at your neighbors than you are at your creepy landlord or Temple University. Temple’s 1996 President’s letter to the board of trustees set in motiion this expansion/explosiion of students. Why aren’t you asking them about their plans to accommodate you?? This problem between Temple and the neighborhood has been going on since the first expansion in the late 60’s. Did they plan for their students since then. NO! It’s not going to let up. I feel for you but ask your mother how she would feel to live in an environment with a hostile, money grubbing university.

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