Students are not the problem with housing: They’re the scapegoats

It’s no secret that housing in Flagstaff is a problem. The prices are at an all-time high while availability is at an all-time low. And now that many seniors and juniors have gotten the boot off campus, there’s a new level of panic among students to find a place to live. All the while, the people of Flagstaff have taken up arms against the university and the students who are being blamed for these issues. But has it ever occurred to anyone that maybe students aren’t the problem?

First of all, without students, Flagstaff wouldn’t exist. We account for almost one-third of the population of Flagstaff, which makes us more than just the bad guys who have ruined the housing market here — it makes us a huge reason why the local economy is thriving as much as it is. Just because there’s around a four-year limit on how long we’re going to be here doesn’t make us any less valuable to Flagstaff.

City-council meetings have been nothing short of controlled chaos for the last year as housing developments like the Hub make their way to the final stages of construction. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be frustrated, too. If I had a family and real adult life here, and all of a sudden a huge high-occupancy student housing development went up in my backyard, I’d be pretty mad. It’s true; we take your parking spots, we’re loud, and now we’re moving in right next door. But has anyone ever stopped to think that maybe we, those terrible students, didn’t ask for this?

We didn’t vote to get kicked off campus, we didn’t ask for rent so expensive we have no choice but to cram eight people into a two bedroom, and we definitely didn’t ask to be made the villain by a town we love just as much as the person who’s lived downtown for 15 years. We would much rather be living in on-campus housing so we don’t have to take all your parking spots.

We would much rather pay a normal rental rate so we don’t have to turn closets into bedrooms. We would much rather not be hated by the homeowners of Flagstaff. We feel like victims just as much as you do. So that begs the question: Whose fault is it?

You can blame Rita Cheng if you want, but I promise you she’s not sitting around all day accepting everyone who applies because she thinks it’d be fun to see what happens. She has a boss and they have a boss and that person has a boss and somewhere along the way, that person decided NAU needs to grow by a certain number of people every year. You can blame the developers who bought the land and are building all these new complexes, but at the end of the day, they’re just doing their jobs. You can be mad, but don’t be mad at students because there’s a much bigger picture here no one seems to care about.

Personally, I don’t think this is anyone’s fault. If you chose to live in a college town, you don’t get to act appalled that this college town is growing just like any other college town would. On top of this, you picked a college town, which is also a very attractive destination for adults as well. If you’re mad you couldn’t afford to buy a house in town, you can probably blame that retired couple in Phoenix who bought their second home up here because they can afford $200,000 for 1,800 square feet.

Before you blindly assign blame to these pesky undergrads who are just trying to get their degrees and enjoy their college experience, think about the bigger picture. The students didn’t do this to you. The beautiful mountain town you chose to live in did this to you.