Housing: College bubble and county constraints

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(Holly O’Malley/GNN)

HOUSING.

The word engenders feelings of uncertainty, excitement and apprehension. Many questions — Who will I room with? Where will I live? — begin to circulate in students’ minds as mid-spring semester rolls around.

Although the housing selection process has begun for many students across campus, housing within the broader Gettysburg and Adams County community has been an ongoing problem.

Recently, I sat down to chat with Amanda Richman, a senior Health Sciences major, about this county-wide housing situation. This past summer through the Kolbe Summer Fellows program, Richman conducted research on Measuring Perceived Discrimination in Rural White Populations. The crux of her research, in tandem with Professor Amy Dailey, focused on sociopolitical dynamics, of which housing is undeniably a substantial factor, in greater Adams County. We discussed the following points:

  1. “Lots of people live in Gettysburg because of its convenience. However, there is a lack of well-paying jobs,” Richman said. While many may want to live here, the desire to do so can often be incongruent with its cost. “Gettysburg is the center of Adams County [not only because it is the county seat, but] because it is the most well-known.” These persistent concerns “are probably worse in smaller pockets of the community.”
  2. The executive director of the Adams County Housing Authority (ACHA), Darlene Brown, was fired this past December on counts of nepotism. According to an article the Gettysburg Times from January 22 this year, Ms. Brown was “forced in December from the Adams County Housing Authority (ACHA), the Pennsylvania Interfaith Community Programs Inc. (PICPI), and Turning Point Interfaith Mission (TPIM)” and in the last edition of 2017 for the Gettysburg Times, her firing was voted as the top news story of the year.

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    (Holly O’Malley/GNN)
  3.  “Housing is a health issue because it affects [one’s] access to water and food,” Richman asserts. Subsequently, housing can impact one’s “mental health and stability, especially for children who may be jumping couch to couch.” Now, Ms. Richman is trying to locate those problems of the smaller pockets such as the environmental conditions of houses and whether or not they are up to code.
  4. There are sectors of Gettysburg Borough, such as areas around South Washington Street, that exhibit housing segregation by socioeconomic and racial factors.
  5. Organizations, like Healthy Adams County (HAC) and United Way, have been working to improve the accessibility of information about available services. Specifically, HAC has “deemed housing as one of three health priorities from its Community Health Assessment.” Mental health & physical health / obesity were the others.
  6. Recently, there have been “plans to entice developers to develop more affordable housing,” Richman said, like those featured on The Adams County Housing Authority’s webpage.
  7. This past summer, Ms. Richman interviewed two employees of the college and one woman doing work through housing coalition through her church’s social justice group. The two employees of the college have lived in Adams County their whole lives and have deep “love and pride” for the county. However, they have found it difficult to work here due to class differences, especially in an environment where “rich college students have cars more expensive than their homes,” Richman learned.
  8. These sentiments informed other aspects of my conversation with Ms. Richman in terms of off-campus housing. For many of these situations, “landlords can charge much higher rent to college students” than they would to members of the community. This sort of college-community relation is further illustrated in the case of the Ice House Complex.

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    (Holly O’Malley/GNN)

Richman also mentioned Alyce Norcross ’17 whose research on “the use of section 8 housing vouchers and barriers” elaborated on the intricacies of this issue. These vouchers are intended to assist very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford decent, safe, and sanitary housing in the private market but many landlords are more hesitant to accept these.

Many other colleges and universities must manage similar problems arising from insufficient housing such as student homelessness, a trend that in and of itself has negative spillover effects for students’ educational attainment. I do not want to gloss over students’ very real and legitimate financial situations as they factor into housing decisions either. However, this article is not intended to address these valid concerns, but rather to highlight inequities in our extended community that may not always be evident to us as students.

While navigating the complexities of the college’s lottery system and eventually clicking on that room on CNAV is justifiably a challenging process, the stress of housing extends beyond the Gburg bubble.

Thanks to Amanda Richman for her willingness and enthusiasm to share her research and thumb through many editions of the Gettysburg Times with me.

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