May 22 2013

When Student Renters Crowd Out Homeowners

Home to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museums and Library, Phipps Conservatory, and the expansive Schenley Park, Oakland, a neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a product of the City Beautiful movement. It is a center of knowledge, art, and culture, enriched by its civic spaces and ample greenery.

The University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning

The University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning

Oakland’s universities, however, have distorted its housing market:

  • Students demand low-rent properties, and developers have obligingly chopped up Oakland’s capacious, single-family homes to capitalize upon this demand. Consequences of this include an imbalance between renter-occupied and owner-occupied properties, a lack of single-family residences suitable for families, and the deterioration of historic properties that otherwise might have been preserved;
  • When properties are on the market, developers often out-bid individual home buyers;

  • Blighted properties are not uncommon due to absentee landlords and raucous students.

If these distortions are not addressed, Oakland will cease to be a mixed-income, intergenerational community, and that shift will hurt Oakland’s businesses and institutions alike. The Oakland 2025 Master Plan puts forth a range of demand-side and supply-side proposals to increase home ownership to counter the aforementioned distortions, including:

  • An employer-assisted housing program. Participating Oakland employers would offer a financial incentive, down-payment assistance, for example, to house-hunting employees who choose to purchase a home in Oakland. By reducing commute length, employees’ work-life balance would be improved, helping employers retain talent;
  • Branding Oakland. To increase single-family home ownership, Oakland will need to attract new home owners. These might include freshly minted graduates hired by Pittsburgh employers, young professionals beginning families, and empty-nesters. Oakland will need to market its institutional, cultural, and recreational resources. The plan suggests that cyclists and runners might be attracted to Panther Hollow, a community near the Allegheny Passage and Eliza Furnace Trail, as golfers are attracting to communities abutting the green.

A Well-Maintained Neighborhood in North Oakland

A Well-Maintained Neighborhood in North Oakland: A Marketable Brand?

To read all of the proposals, take a look at the “Plan Themes and Program Initiatives” section of the Oakland 2025 Master Plan. Hint: You should read the proposals because they’re creative and likely to be quite effective.

Did your college or university distort the surrounding housing market? Comment here or on Twitter!

Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Data cited through links.

Sunny Menozzi

Sunny Menozzi's military duties have taken her to diverse and exciting places, from Singapore to Arizona, South Korea to Afghanistan, and North Carolina to Hawaii. Sunny's travels inspired her interest in cities, especially how they function, the impact of the built environment on the residents, the methods planners employ to shape natural features, and the vibrancy that can be cultivated by good planning and design. She will begin her pursuit of a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013. Sunny plans to focus on reuse and historic preservation, community-building, and economic and environmental sustainability. She hopes to contribute to projects that repurpose military bases. An avid runner, Sunny is interested in the design of recreational trails and policies that encourage the development of walkable communities. She holds a B.S. in International Relations and Russian from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 9:11 am and is filed under Branding, Community/Economic Development, History/Preservation, Housing, Social/Demographics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


2 Responses to “When Student Renters Crowd Out Homeowners”

  1. Melinda Says:

    Cool! I actually haven’t looked at the Oakland Master Plan even though it’s been available for two years. It looks pretty promising. I especially like the employer-assisted housing program, which you mentioned in your post.

    I had interned at the Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center for a few years, and it was readily apparent that Pittsburgh doesn’t really keep its graduates. There are a lot of families that grow up and lifers that retire in Pittsburgh, but not really anyone in between. I’m curious to see the possible demographic shifts as a result of this plan.

    I went to school in (Western) Philadelphia, and I feel like the housing situation there is similar to Oakland’s.

  2. What happens when student renters crowd out homeowners? | Economic Says:

    [...] Sunny Menozzi / May 27, 2013 / [...]

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