I wrote this letter in response to this article. I mailed out a copy to every Cedar Falls City Council Member today. I hope it opens their eyes and they look at this situation from a students perspective.
Dear Cedar Falls City Council Member,
I’m writing you this letter today because I’m worried the Cedar Falls city council is about to make a big mistake. For the past year or so I have been following the news about the rental property situation in the city. It seems that the situation has come to a head and very soon you’ll be voting on an ordinance that will reduce the rental occupancy limit from four unrelated people to three per dwelling unit. I’m sure that you’ve heard plenty of opinions, facts, and statistics about the situation, but I’m going to be honest and tell you how it looks from a college student’s perspective.
First I will give you a little background on myself. I grew up in northern Iowa in small town called Britt. I graduated in 2010 and then attended Kirkwood Community College for two years before heading to UNI. In the spring I will be graduating as a double major in Communication/Public Relations and Interactive Digital Studies. While attending Kirkwood I lived in an apartment complex with hundreds of other students. Kirkwood doesn’t provide dorms so students must find their own housing. I prefer apartment style living anyway, because I don’t like the idea of sharing a bedroom and I think it forces a student to grow up. I had to learn how to cook, clean, and take care of myself. I didn’t have a cafeteria that provided my meals or an RA on duty that I could call if something was wrong. Therefore, when I moved to Cedar Falls in the summer of 2012 I knew that I didn’t want to live in a dorm.
For the next two years I lived on the corner of University and Olive Street, which is owned by Jeanette Geisler and her husband. These were brand new, four bedroom, two bath apartments with a garage underneath. I absolutely loved it there. Jeanette is an outstanding landlord. Whenever I had a problem she would send someone over and it would be fixed immediately. The apartment was close to campus and was a reasonable rate of $385/month plus utilities.
This past spring though I decided it was time to move. A couple friends and I decided to grow up a little more and move into a house. We currently live on Carlton Drive, right behind the mall in a residential area. It is a 4 bedroom, two bathroom house, with a finished basement, and an awesome back yard. My landlord is Karen Deters. Us girls range in age from 21-23 years old. We all work part-time/full-time jobs and attend school at UNI, Hawkeye, and Upper Iowa. Because we all have such different lives we didn’t want to live close to campus. We wanted a place we could call home.
This is why a lot of students or young professionals choose to rent homes in residential areas. They’re reaching an age where they are pursuing careers and thinking about their future rather than having a big party Friday night. Which is why if the city of Cedar Falls decides to pass this ordinance all it will do is show how ungrateful the city is to have these students living in their town.
Students at the University of Northern Iowa spend thousands, if not millions, of dollars in the city every year. They pay tuition, they shop at local stores, and they work at area businesses. What would Cedar Falls look like if the university didn’t exist?
And now the city council is going to tell these students that they don’t trust them enough to make their own decisions about where and whom they can live with? I may not have my degree yet, but I know from a PR point of view, that is a horrible decision. And here’s why:
Let’s say the city passes this ordinance and many of the houses and apartments that are currently four bedrooms dwellings are forced to become three bedroom. Here’s what will happen:
1. The landlords will be forced to increase the rent. Not because they want to, but because they still have to pay the mortgage and taxes on the property. Or the tenants will be forced to take on the cost of missing that fourth tenant. For example, I currently pay $370 every month in rent. Without the rent of the fourth roommate that $370 will then be split to the three remaining roommates. $370/3 = is an extra $123 on my rent every month. Which means I will be paying around $493. I cannot afford that.
2. The landlords will sell their properties, forcing students to look elsewhere. Some may look at the on-campus living but I guarantee a majority will look outside of city limits. They will move to Waterloo, Hudson, Evansdale, etc. Sure they will have to drive more, but they can afford it when they’re not paying $500 rent every month.
3. Those students that you pissed off will eventually graduate. And do you think at 23 years old, fresh out of college, with a huge student loan to pay off, that they will be looking to buy a home? If they are lucky enough to get a job in Cedar Falls (which is really the area you should be worrying about) they will be looking to rent. But since your city council voted to limit the housing situation they either won’t be able to afford the rent or won’t be able to find housing. So what will they do? They will move to Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, etc. Wherever they can find a decent job with affordable housing.
The younger generation is completely different from the older generations. Back in the day people used to say I’ll go wherever I can find a job, nowadays people say I want to go live in Denver, Colorado and then I’ll worry about a job. Why? Because the younger generation is all about the experience. They want to live in a city where they can experience everything; and Cedar Falls offers that. This city has a great downtown with events, culture, and amazing restaurants. But you will throw it away if you limit the housing options. And why? All because somebody complained that a college student was throwing a party in their residential neighborhood? Well, I can guarantee that even if you limit the housing occupancy to three non-related people, they will still have a party. You could limit it to one person and they would still have a party. Parties and drunk college kids is the risk you take when living in a college town. And don’t get me wrong, I think the residents who live next to a college student who throws a party have a right to be mad. But the situation can be handled better.
I hope you really step back and take a look at the big picture of this issue. This ordinance will affect thousands of people including students, landlords, and residents. Do you want Cedar Falls to be known as the city who kicked out college students from their homes? Or do you want to be known as the city that came together and provided decent, affordable, off-campus housing options for students?
I hope this letter opened up your mind and you will consider it before you vote. If you want to express your opinions feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com