Location, location, location. This is a classic phrase your local realtor might pitch to you when trying to sell you some nice new property. In terms of resources, New Brunswick is one of the better cities to live in within the greater New York City area. It has a train station, two top-tier hospitals, a world-renowned university, a vast multicultural population, a bustling downtown, and one of the best restaurants scenes in New Jersey. Out of the various characteristics mentioned above, none but Rutgers University stands out as the most important and extensive qualities associated with New Brunswick. One very real problem that has not garnered as much attention as it should be is the problem of student housing. Particularly, the problem not only lies with a lack of student housing, but with the fact that off-campus student housing dominates the area surrounding the school and is continually forcing non-student residents away from the City’s resources.
For starters, Rutgers University has had a very negative track record when it comes to providing adequate housing for its student population, see here and here. With the advent of the economic crisis in 2007-2009 came a lot of unemployment and uncertainty regarding jobs available for recent grads. This meant that students were staying in school longer, taking up the space meant to be freed for the incoming high school kids. Rutgers’ contingency plans were never meant to deal with the issue of overcrowding only until it became a problem serious enough to not be ignored.
The annual surge of students enrolling in the University, which cannot adequately house most of those students poses a burden for the city of New Brunswick to deal with. As student housing proved to be scarce, students obviously turn to off-campus housing. According to U.S. News, 47% of Rutgers students live off-campus. That means that roughly 12,000 students occupy the areas in New Brunswick that surround the University. Consequently, these areas are the ones that house the premier resources that make New Brunswick so appealing, as mentioned above. The train station, business district, hospital, and University are therefore made substantially less accessible to non-student residents since students take up all the housing around those areas.
The surge of students looking for off-campus housing has other adverse effects on the community of New Brunswick. The sizable off-campus population looking to sign leases drives prices of properties nearest to the school way up. The prices are able to reach $800-$900 per person for “clean” properties. Meanwhile the more “affordable” prices also tend to be acquainted with properties that are in no way safe, clean, or properly up to code to house multiple people. These artificially increased prices therefore drive non-student residents away from the areas surrounding the school and the downtown business district, aka the town’s most valuable resources.
Lastly, the rampant presence of rowdy, stressed out students, further entrenches the lines between student and non-student residents. College kids, especially in New Brunswick, tend to be irresponsible when it comes to being a “good neighbor”. They neglect their properties by leaving trash and other junk around to the point were it looks like the house should be demolished. Meanwhile, at night those houses become nightclubs for party-hungry students, and consequently attract the type of problems nightclubs face like violence and drunken acts of vandalism. This causes major disturbances to the quality of life for non-student residents, and further proves the point that off-campus student housing forces non-student resident away form the City’s main attractions.
Rutgers needs to seriously plan accordingly with its acceptance rates in order to provide students with appropriate housing. On the other hand, New Brunswick needs better enforcement of housing codes and living standards so that both student and non-student resident can enjoy the resources New Brunswick has to offer.