How much housing is too much?

Sophomore air traffic control major John Heraty and sophomore accounting major Alex Rababy play Sean Faella, junior managerial marketing major, at foosball at the University Edge apartments on Tuesday. University Edge still have 30 rooms available for rent to Kent State students. Photo by Grace Jelinek.

The first residents of three new student-housing complexes, which bring more than 1,700 beds to Kent, have moved in for the fall semester.

But city officials have different opinions on the housing’s benefits.

Dave Ruller, Kent city manager, said housing “isn’t really a good or bad issue.”

“If it’s well-managed and well-maintained, off-campus housing can be a positive addition to Kent’s neighborhoods,” Ruller said in an email interview. “If it’s poorly run and poorly managed, then problems can arise that detract from the quality of the neighborhood.”

Ruller said it is too early to tell if Kent has reached its off-campus housing “saturation point,” or the point at which the number of beds is greater than the demand for beds.

“For each of the new buildings, the developers performed housing market studies, and in each case, their data showed enough of a housing demand for them to move forward with the projects,” Ruller said. “I can’t speculate on the saturation point, but private investment of that magnitude required to build these properties is typically not done unless the market has room for growth.”

Kent City Councilmember Heidi Shaffer said she believes there is a need for new student housing, but University Edge and The Province are too luxurious for a lot of Kent State students to afford.

“I think we have reached a saturation point of having high-end student housing,” Shaffer said. “There’s a limited market for that. I think there are a lot of students who may not be able to afford that type of housing, and I think that perhaps we need to focus on improving affordable housing that we have or building more.”

Shaffer said she supports housing closer to the center of campus. More housing around Dix Stadium would cause traffic problems and inconvenience for the Kent police and fire departments.

“I think the housing developments closer to the center of Kent — the high-density housing developments that are done well — will support the downtown area and will also allow us to be a more pedestrian-oriented community, which is a value for me and many other people,” Shaffer said.

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Councilmember Robin Turner said he is most concerned about the long-term commitment of large, new housing complexes.

“There is somewhat of a concern about if the student population — which, right now, may be spiking a bit — in five or seven years or so, starts to decline, what happens with those properties?” Turner said. “Will that impact housing resources in the city? That will make properties that are currently being used for students less valuable.”

Turner said he does acknowledge the definite growth in students living in Kent, but he is uncertain if Kent will be able to sustain its new buildings in the long run.

“There are a number of challenges with all the new buildings and an impact, quite frankly, on the quality of life of some of the residents proximate to the new housing projects,” Turner said. “We’ll see how those all start to work themselves out.”

Despite the increase in residents and housing, Ruller said the city has no plans to hire any additional police officers.

“In the planning stages of these projects, we emphasized the importance of effective on-site security,” Ruller said. “The university is also good about reminding students that bad decisions, even on off-campus properties, can result in possible expulsion.”

The three agreed even with the new complexes, additional projects are always possible. Ruller said the city receives inquiries from developers weekly, but no official construction plans have been filed with the city.

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].