Alliance wants more U-area homeowners


The community hopes home-ownership will make the neighborhood a better place to live.

Rental properties vastly outnumber owner-occupied homes in neighborhoods around the University, but some people want to see that change.

The University District Partnership Alliance recently approved a plan to preserve, maintain and increase home ownership in neighborhoods surrounding the University.

The alliance could use up to $730,000 of state money on the project, which it hopes will counteract the rising number of family homes being converted to rental housing.

The conversion of single-family homes to rental housing negatively affected the quality of housing and life in those neighborhoods, according to a 2007 neighborhood impact report.

From 2000 to 2006, 156 owner-occupied properties were converted to other types of housing in the Southeast Como neighborhood, according to city data. During that time, there were also 32 conversions in Marcy-Holmes and 36 in Prospect Park.

Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon is a member of the alliance steering committee. He said the project’s goal is to stabilize housing and promote long-term investment in the area.

“There’s been some deterioration of housing stock,” he said.

Single-family homes are purchased and converted to rental units, sometimes illegally.

University environmental education junior Stephanie Hagen walks by a house for rent Friday on Como Avenue. Rental properties vastly outnumber owner-occupied homes in neighborhoods around the University.

Occasionally, renovations are done poorly, and landlords don’t care about upkeep once renters move in, Gordon said.

Other times, older homes are torn down to build new homes with many rooms to accommodate renters.

Recent University graduate Adam Engelman, a student representative on the alliance, said he has tried to include a student voice in the conversation.

Although he thinks the project will improve housing quality and safety around the University, Engelman said he thinks there is tension between renters and homeowners in the area.

“Just because we have a lot of landlords that are bad doesn’t mean the students that are renting are bad,” he said.

Students often rent houses because they’re cheaper than apartment complexes, but he said it’s easy to tell an owner-occupied home from a renter-occupied home.

“We have a lot of students that really have no alternatives as far as housing,” Engelman said.

The alliance’s plan is meant to improve housing in the area by encouraging people to purchase homes and keep them in good condition.

Homeowners can get up to $2,500 if they give the alliance the first option to buy their home.

The project allots money to repair homes once they’re purchased, and homebuyer assistance loans are also available.

A “Live Near Your Work” campaign will market home ownership to people employed in the University area.

Dick Poppele, University professor emeritus, lives in Prospect Park and is also a member of the steering committee. He said some parts of the project will hopefully start before the end of the month.

The problem with housing in the area is mainly caused by absentee landlords, he said. Students are encouraged to live in the area.

“It isn’t that students are not welcome,” Poppele said.