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When Student Renters Crowd Out Homeowners

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

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.

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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 imp...

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