Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fewer Students, More Crime

Lancaster Newspapers has not reported one of residents' chief grievances with F&M – the significant crime increase that has arisen since nearly 400 students have moved from the neighborhood into the new dormitory on Harrisburg Pike. At the planning commission meeting Feb 20, several residents noted increases in vandalism, burglary, assaults, and drug-related crime in the past year. Much of this crime is believed to be due to landlords filling the glut of vacant housing with marginal residents.

This situation is particularly galling for me and other off-campus student landlords. In the fall of 2006 F&M met with landlords to advise them of their plans to relocate 400 students to the new resident halls on Harrisburg Pike. The landlords, although disappointed, were generally resigned to the decision. The one request landlords made was that F&M gradually phase in the change to avoid a flood of vacancies that would make it difficult for landlords to find quality tenants.

F&M not only ignored that request, but moved to lease the new housing immediately when they learned from landlords that student housing is leased 6 months in advance of the lease starting dates. This has resulted in the current high vacancy rate and a scramble to find good tenants.

Now in a market of excess supply, F&M is attempting to change the zoning laws that off-campus landlords have successfully lived with for 20 years. The top reasons given for this request are increased safety and control of the students. If this is truly F&M's goal, my suggestion is that F&M use Kevin Silverang's $17 million to build the on-campus dormitory they claim is in their 10 year plan.