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Penn State Harrisburg student government president defends those who live in township

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 5/15/19

After two Lower Swatara Township residents voiced concerns about Penn State Harrisburg students living in the township, student government President Riley Cagle urged commissioners to “not even …

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Penn State Harrisburg student government president defends those who live in township

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After two Lower Swatara Township residents voiced concerns about Penn State Harrisburg students living in the township, student government President Riley Cagle urged commissioners to “not even consider” an ordinance that would limit student housing.

“Because all you’re doing is putting us in an impossible situation where students can’t find housing, where students have to decide between eating and paying the rent. We’re humans, too,” Cagle said at the commissioners’ May 1 meeting.

The commissioners thanked Cagle after he spoke, but did not comment on what he said.

Residents expressed concerns at recent meetings, specifically about parking on Lakeside Drive and whether the township had an ordinance similar to Middletown that regulated how many unrelated individuals could live in a single-family dwelling. A Woodridge development resident said the developer was advertising to college students after reportedly telling the president of the homeowners’ association otherwise.

Cagle said he understood complaints from the resident and concerns about parking.

“I don’t believe it’s right to punish the students for what the renting agency did or what the development agency did,” he said.

Students bring a lot to the area, including spending money at businesses and community service, and while the township may lose out on tax revenue because the university is tax exempt, Cagle argued that the local economy benefited from student spending.

Cagle said Middletown’s ordinance that forbids more than two unrelated people from living in a single-family dwelling is “limiting students from achieving affordable housing” and “creating a huge issue for growth at Penn State Harrisburg.” He said he is working with the borough and that he hopes officials are open to changing the ordinance.

“I don’t want to see the same ordinance be implemented here, and us as students have a two-front war of basically being persecuted. It feels like it’s being a bad thing to be a student now,” Cagle said.

Cagle said he represented a “very, very large” constituency in the township. Housing insecurity is a problem for students and, according to Cagle, the average freshman student pays about $1,500 a month for on-campus housing.

“That’s larger than some of your mortgages,” he said.

Food insecurity is also an issue, which he said is in part because of the high cost of living on campus. Students look to live off campus because it’s “much, much cheaper,” and one Middletown landlord told Cagle that they were charging $825 a month including utilities, which could be split among three people.

After parking concerns were raised at the April 17 meeting, Police Chief Jeff Vargo said he encountered a similar parking issue when he worked for the Susquehanna Township police. Residents were issued permits and it became a “non-issue.”

Parking permits aren’t ideal, Cagle said.

“We’re Americans. We have a right to live free, and we have a right to live together if we like. I believe that that right should be protected by this council. I don’t believe that right has been protected by Middletown,” he said.