Corvallis’ Hidden Housing War

by Caitlyn May

Even the most vague glances around town garner the same conclusion. Corvallis supports the Beavers. Corvallis supports OSU.

The city has all but erected itself as a shrine to the university it surrounds and one would be hard pressed to find anyone living here who didn’t have a love affair with the orange and black. There are, of course, the few traitors who don green and yellow. But hidden under the rah-rah for OSU, there is a pocket of residents within the sea of orange who are seeing red.

The infatuation with OSU and its students seems to have helped to hide a growing problem: college towns come with college kids, and college kids come with parties. Late night rock out sessions, doing God knows what behind closed doors. The issue, however, seems to be that the doors have opened and students have come pouring out into the quiet neighborhoods around the city. The quaint cul-de-sacs that attract nuclear families of both traditional and modern varieties have become home base for OSU students displaced from the crowded campus. Students have always rented homes in the cities where they are being educated, but to some Corvallis residents, it has become more like an infestation.

In the northeast corner of the city, far from the hustle and bustle from campus, there is one such cul-de-sac. Single family homes with school-aged children playing on the lawns, mom and dad close by. And on a Friday night, the strange 19-year-old relieving himself on the front porch of a neighboring residence. “In one of the rentals, we had four students move in. It’s two years later and now every semester there’s four to seven students rotating in and out of that house and there’s no parking,” a local resident, representing dozens of others in the same predicament, shared with The Advocate. The neighbors feel anonymity is vital due to fear of the situation. In some cases, up to 10 students may be able to cram themselves into a single family home, but their vehicles do not fit so snugly in the streets. For residents balancing a mortgage and taxes that seem to constantly be shooting skyward, not being able to park in front of their own homes is an issue.

According to the city planning department, there nothing anything against any ordinance when it comes to the crowded car scene. As long as the vehicles are parked on a solid surface, are moved once every 48 hours, and have a permit in neighborhoods that require it, there’s nothing about the situation that is flying blatantly in the face of the law.

While the parking has turned into something of a nightmare for many, it is not the core of the issue. In the north-east neighborhood, the same resident griped, “None of it’s against the law per se. We have kids, we have to get up early in the morning and get them to school, get to work and there’s partying after 10 with loud music. They obviously drive drunk…we call the police, they go in, hang out and have a good time. The cops know they’re drunk and they’re going to drive. Students say the cops say it’s no big deal and they don’t stop the party.”

A call to Chief of Police Gary D. Boldizsar was not returned by press time.

At last count, the university boasted 24,977 students and 400 acres. The math, unfortunately, doesn’t add up and so the students are clearly streaming off campus and into rental homes. According to local residents, a simple sweep of the streets in the morning would garner Corvallis much needed funds in the form of ticket fees. Even better, enforcement of noise ordinances could lessen the stress on families. However, responsibility for these rambunctious kids remains unclear. Should the landlords be held accountable for allowing seven students to share three bedrooms? Is it the police force? The neighborhood? The university? The students themselves?

The City of Corvallis has noticed the growing problem and is coming at it head first and addressing it with the urgency it deserves. It has formed the Corvallis-OSU Collaboration Project with the university. The group will discuss and explore issues facing the community and the growing college population, including parking and community livability. Co-chaired by Mayor Julie Manning and OSU President Ed Ray, the group formed in December and is expected to provide recommendations to the city council and the university. It is yet to be tested, but there is a group of city residents cleaning human waste off their porches with fingers crossed.