The latest anti-student measure undertaken by the Williamsburg city council — converting rental housing near the College to owner-occupied units — represents our local tax dollars at work in the most irresponsible and unnecessary way.
p. The converted houses will be sold to the new owners on the condition that they are never rented without city approval. The subtext of this unfair stipulation is clear: students not wanted.
p. The first house converted under this plan is already a financial disaster for the city. The house, located near the College on Harrison Avenue, a neighborhood inhabited by both students and older residents, was purchased last year by the city at the urging of Vice Mayor and economics Professor Clyde Haulman. $416,000 was invested in the house, which is now on the market for $389,000, resulting in a likely loss of at least $27,000 for taxpayers. The failure of the pilot project does not bode well for the future of the program and should serve as a warning that the city should not get involved in the volatile housing market, especially during a downturn.
p. We are saddened that Haulman, who interacts with students daily, would take the position that rentals are unhealthy for the community. Much of Williamsburg’s vibrancy comes from its students. Students are the primary renters in houses near campus, and the primary victims of the city’s plan. Decreasing the already meager off-campus housing options could push students farther away from campus, and Residence Life has left open the possibility that the city’s plan could impact on-campus housing in the future.
p. What is most troubling about the council’s plan is that it is not just poor fiscal policy, it is poor social policy. The city says that it is targeting rentals because they are harbingers of unhealthy neighborhoods.
p. What we see is a city going after the few off-campus options for students that are still within walking distance of the College. The new plan shows the great lengths the city is willing to go to in order to keep students from renting. In the long run, students must continue to send the message to the city that it has nothing to fear from student renters in this college town. In the short run, students need to vote in May to elect council members who support student rights and oppose this city policy.