Local residents have a number of issues with off-campus housing that could jeopardize housing options for students if left unresolved.
According to News 4 New York, Brookhaven residents are unhappy with landlords violating town codes and failing to enforce rules and regulations upon students. They have reported landlords housing more than four unrelated people within their property, which is against town code.
Furthermore, homeowners believe that off-campus housing available to students may diminish the neighborhood’s property value finding parties among other student activities disruptive.
This year, residents reached their tipping point, protesting houses purchased by investors for off-campus housing purposes, according to both News 4 New York and “Newsday.”
Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Foundation, said officials had not addressed the issue in its early stages, when there were fewer problems. Now, Brookhaven officials and Stony Brook University are working together to resolve the issues in an effort to maintain off-campus housing for students, clear up confusion regarding housing rules and address the concerns of residents.
Anna Lubitz, president of Undergraduate Student Government, is working with the university administration to reach out to Brookhaven. “I received…press releases from administration saying that it is a community effort,” Lubitz said.
She mentioned that the town codes are not clear for students and it is the Town of Brookhaven’s responsibility to make the codes understandable for students living or contemplating living off-campus.
“Students are coming into this and some of them, it’s their first time living off-campus and they don’t…really understand the process or procedure of renting and releasing a house or apartment,” Lubitz said.
Students who live off-campus, like Vincent Justiniano, a sophomore psychology major, also agree that the codes are unclear. “I feel like the codes in general aren’t really talked about or discussed. It’s there but I don’t think people follow…or worry about them,” Justiniano said.
Justiniano also says that the freedom that accompanies living off-campus may cause some students to neglect the rules and regulations. However, he does not think students are solely to blame since some landlords fail to reinforce the rules before students move in.
“The USG town hall meeting that I implemented…was the first start to get students aware of the issue and for them to have a voice and for all their concerns to be met,” Lubitz said.
But landlords must also do their part.
“The most important thing is to make sure that the property owner has a rental permit with the town of Brookhaven and as long as the homeowner adheres to the rules and
regulations, I think it’s a good thing,” Rocchio said.
Rocchio admits that the issues were not addressed in the past. But efforts are being made to confront the problems now. “I think Supervisor Romaine is doing a good thing cracking down on these landlords and increasing fines quite a bit.”
According to “Patch,” the university will not only require investors wishing to provide off-campus housing to have valid permits, but will also use cross-referencing to ensure the housing follows legal practices.
“People have been renting to students for years. I think maybe economic conditions nowadays put more pressure on [landlords] trying to get more money so therefore they go beyond…the rules and regulations of the town,” Rocchio said.
Not all landlords or homeowners renting their houses to students violate town codes and the rules and regulations put in place. “It’s only people that push the envelope, to try and get more out of it than they’re legally entitled to, then it becomes a problem for everybody,” Rocchio said.
Regardless of the problems, members of the community think off-campus housing is beneficial. Not only does it integrate students into the community but it also provides a cheaper alternative to living on-campus, especially since on-campus housing, according to Lubitz, is scarce.
In order to move forward, being respectful of one another is important. “The Town of Brookhaven needs to support Stony Brook University and we also have to be aware that we are neighbors,” Lubitz said.
The issue is an ongoing process and will take time before matters are completely resolved.