At the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893, the City of Philadelphia sent, as an exhibition, a two story rowhouse. Literally tens of thousands of them had been built in the years leading up to the exhibition, where Philadelphia billed itself as “the city of homes.” Unlike the crowded tenements of New York City and Boston, nearly every Philadelphian had a home to his or herself.
Today this housing stock remains almost entirely intact, though the population has decreased, leaving our college students in a unique place: In Philadelphia, groups of students renting a whole rowhouse is at least as common as apartment living, if not more so.
The University and the Powelton Village Civic Association have apparently taken issue with this, however, and plans are afoot to force students out of rowhouses and into University Approved Housing until their junior year.
As an organization comprised of students of different academic standings, this issue is immensely personal. By the time you are a third-year student, moving out of a dorm feels like a right of passage. Some of our members remember the heady days when even sophomores could live off-campus, leaving the crowded Towers Hall triples for more affordable living that didn’t violate basic human rights laws. Off-campus housing is plentiful and cheap, while on campus housing typically rents for 150 percent to 200 percent of off-campus offerings, with worse living conditions.
Would you rather pay $874 a month to share a bedroom in a glorified dorm without even a stove (unless a microwave convection oven in “select units” counts) or spend half that and get a whole rowhouse, a bedroom to yourself, a porch and backyard, a gas range and acres of counter space? The choice is obvious to us.
Increasing homeownership in the Powelton Village is a good idea, one that students, the University and the Powelton Village Civic Association can all strive towards. However, there are better ways to achieve this goal than to bar students from living off-campus or in unapproved housing entirely. Reduce prices in the dorms to be competitive with off-campus housing, or maybe make them more worth living in. We’re students, yes, but we’re also adults; we’d like to be able to choose where we live on our own terms.