Nov 092011
 
Authors: Sarah Fenton

Available off-campus student housing hasn’t kept up with increased CSU enrollment, a problem the Student Housing Action Plan hopes to solve.

According to Fort Collins’ Neighborhood Services Manager Beth Sowder, the Student Housing Action Plan is a collaboration between the city and a unilateral group of shareholders.

Last spring, Sowder approached the Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) to launch a yearlong look at how to solve the issue using a collaborative method to avoid conflict between interested parties.

As an impartial resource, this semester CPD has focused their work on the student housing initiative. CPD Director Martin Carcasson said the center’s findings throughout the first stages of the research showed that the potential conflict between college students and long-term residents were misguided.

“The big thing about this is finding the common ground between neighbors and students and then at the end going to developers and saying is this realistic, instead of just talking past each other,” said Michael Montgomery, a student member of CPD.

Based on feedback from focus groups on both sides, stereotypes and assumptions have produced roadblocks within the collaborative process in the past. And in many instances the different groups had more in common than they anticipated, Carcasson said.

According to Chase Eckerdt, director of government affairs for the Associated Students of CSU, students are in need of new housing, however, conflicting ideas exchanged between the CSU population and long-term residents have impeded past efforts to fix the problems.

“We’re in a very unique position right now as a community,” Eckerdt said.

For Montgomery, the trends CPD is picking up on shows that the two groups have similar goals in what housing looks like throughout the community.

“People share a lot of the same values, but what differentiates them, is how they rank the values,” Montgomery said.

Carcasson said identifying these stereotypes is what allows for a more efficient problem solving process.

“I think we will be able to find particular points where there is a lot of miscommunication where we’ll know how to deal with that better,” said Carcasson. “Hopefully we’ll get better and better at it.”

For Carcasson the big stereotype is the idea that students simply want to party. According to responses, students are just as concerned about noise complaints and the repercussions of big parties.

When mega parties like the September Ram’s Pointe Pool Party landed the community on national news reports, the issue was disconcerting to both focus groups. It was finding common ground like this that fulfills the mission statement of the CPD.

Carcasson said he believes CSU has a greater obligation in educating students about student housing issues. The fact that students are more fluid, moving from place to place makes this an important point of emphasis.

The Student Housing Action Plan has included collaborating groups such as business groups, real estate groups and development groups. It also has contracted the CSU groups, Associate Students of CSU, the Research Foundation, Off Campus Life, and Housing and Dining Services.

The committee plans on wrapping up its proceedings in May but, according to the CPD, will continue to address the subject in the coming decade, as the CSU population is expected to reach 35,000 students in the next ten years.

Later this month, all focus groups will meet together as one body to more clearly define the goals and findings of the last few months of research. In February they will take it to Fort Collins City Council so an action plan can be formulated.

Collegian writer Sarah Fenton can be reached at news@collegian.com

The Student Housing Action Plan

Problem: Vacancy rates for housing is at 4 percent, which should be at 7 percent in a healthy economy.

Solution: Additional housing complexes along areas like the Mason Street Corridor, areas with parking.

Conflict: Student housing in form of single family houses are cheaper, which makes long term residents in neighborhoods nervous.

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