The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 24, 2013

Town and gown relationship on the ropes?


Daily Item

---- — While town and gown relations can be a mixed blessing for college communities, the balance in the Valley clearly tilts in favor of having a university within easy reach.

Any historic town with aging housing stock knows trends in the rental markets tend to present only a few good, predictable choices for tenants in what can be generously described as transitional housing.

College students, for all the issues they bring with them -- including sometimes rambunctious, but age-appropriate, behavior -- are among the better bunches of renters. If they can afford tuition, they have access to resources. They are people who clearly want to improve their lot in life. If they turn out not to be swell tenants, they have a built-in and fairly predictable churn factor.

The other steady and reliable clientele includes people on some form of public assistance, because they come with the relative assurance of regular government rent checks. They, too, are transitioning to a better place, but sometimes from a deeper valley with no assurances of loftier heights.

In between are strivers, people who have traditionally been on their way to home ownership in America, but who have yet to squirrel away a down payment or achieve the income lift needed to feed a mortgage.

Yes, these are broad brushes. But the patterns they paint determine the character and quality of life in communities here and elsewhere.

So when it became apparent that Susquehanna University was corralling the coeds on campus and in college housing, the landlords of Selinsgrove, downtown businesses and neighbors throughout the community had reason to wonder what it meant for the borough.

Selinsgrove, Lewisburg and Bloomsburg, all college towns, evince a vitality from the mix and mingle of dating-age people gathering in social settings throughout the community, from parents weekends and the everyday transition from the enclosures of childhood and youth to adult responsibilities and interaction.

Many colleges and their host communities form a dynamic partnership around the comfort, social interaction and commercialism of tomorrow's generations. They embed the necessary accommodations for exuberance, keep the channels of communication open, throttle back on the noise ordinances and pick up the beer cans.

If that partnership has somehow gone sideways in Selinsgrove, it would be wise to work it out before the borough finds itself with a different population that could move the community to a substantially different place.