Home Campus The city planner and Student Senate are teaming up to tackle housing issues in Athens

The city planner and Student Senate are teaming up to tackle housing issues in Athens

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Student Senate and the city planner want to hear about student housing, landlords, and the general safety of rentals.

Student Senate is partnering with the Athens city planner to gain student input about housing, among other concerns, for the upcoming comprehensive city plan.

The plan, which is supposed to lay out the next 40 years of framework for city development, will encompass issues spanning from parking in uptown, the environment, diversity and inclusion, to housing and zoning concerns.

For housing concerns, Athens City Planner Paul Logue wants input from not just Athens residents, but also from the student population.

“In neighborhoods, there are constant concerns about the conversion of single-family homes into rentals,” Logue said. “The concern that we’ve heard for many years — we’re talking decades now — is that, as rentals move into neighborhoods that were traditionally established single-resident neighborhoods, there is like a domino effect.”

Logue said that the differences in age and lifestyle of the residents and students can make it difficult for full-time employees with children to live near students who may have parties and other noise issues.

But Logue said he has noticed students and Athens residents share many of the same concerns, from job availability, cleanliness of the city, to road conditions. Logue also said many students would like to stay in Athens after they graduate, but the job base is not there to support that.

“When I talk one on one with students, the conversations are really no different than if I talked one on one with a middle-aged person who has been in Athens for years, they have some of the same frustrations,” Logue said.

The planning commission is also facing issues of safety and building maintenance, particularly in off-campus student housing.

Alicia Lundy-Morse, Athens city planning intern and Student Senate chief of staff, said she wants to hear from students about issues like street lighting and quality of landlords.

She said landlords believe the students do not take care of the buildings they rent, but students say the buildings are already low-quality and therefore feel no obligation to maintain them.

“The city plan and the city as a whole have the opportunity to be the mediator between that,” Lundy-Morse said.

Lundy-Morse consulted the Off-Campus Commission of Student Senate to garner feedback from them, and to survey the off-campus student population. The commission wants to hear about students’ housing experiences, what the most important things are to students in regards to housing, and the quality of landlords, Lundy-Morse said.

This is the first time the city plan, which is expected to be completed first quarter 2019, has been taken up by an in-house planning commission rather than utilizing a third party group, Lundy-Morse said. She also said this is the first time that the plan has strived to include student voices.

“This is a huge priority for (Logue), because the biggest population in Athens is students, and students are the driving force of the marginalized communities in Athens, so he wanted to hear those voices,” Lundy-Morse said.

The Off-Campus Commission and the city planner office will be conducting surveys outside the Athens County Municipal Court on Sept. 26 and 27 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. They will also be organizing a focus group with different student organizations.

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