State College zoning regulations categorize doctoral students under a blanket “student” category, a misnomer with significant consequences.
The student home zoning regulations limit the ability of two or more unrelated individuals to live in the same property unless it is in a designated “student housing” zone, which disproportionately affects graduate students. With the median gross rent $908 monthly, and the average yearly graduate stipend $18,500, most rental properties are unaffordable for doctoral students without partners or roommates. This affects more than 7,000 members of our community.
During the May 4 State College Borough Council- Planning Commission meeting, commission members argued against a proposal to grant full professional status to doctoral students. Granting us this would exempt us from the student home zoning regulations. Graduate students voiced dissent, but were largely patronized. Slinking away from their responsibility to vote on proposed zoning amendments, commission members instead took “no action at this time.”
To the State College Borough Planning Commission: As elected representatives of the entire State College community, it is your responsibility to ensure that the needs of all community members are taken into account. It is unacceptable that you have refused to take action in the face of substantive critiques of your zoning regulations. There are many ways to maintain and strengthen our wonderful community that do not resort to exclusionary practices. As a start, try fostering a welcoming environment by inviting students to your meetings so that we can collectively plan together, as an inclusive community.
Azita Ranjbar, State College