Uptown home expansions impact community

Kat Kelsey/ The Maroon

Lifelong Carrollton neighborhood resident Sallie Davis saw an unusual-looking building permit on the front door of a house on the other side of her street a couple years ago. She later found that the permit was being used to expand the four-bedroom duplex to a nine-bedroom house.

Other Uptown residents have seen this conversion happen on their own blocks where developers are expanding homes to accommodate renting college students. Doubles to dorms advocate Keith Hardie said the “most insidious” effect of the homes’ expansions is the disappearance of long-term residents.

“Our friends and neighbors move out because they don’t want to fight for parking spaces, and they don’t like the noise and blight that so often accompany student housing,” Hardie said.

District A Councilman Joe Giarusso said this led many Uptowners to start the Stop Doubles to Dorms movement in February 2019.

Hardie said a shotgun double has, at best, two parking spaces streetside without a driveway. He said if a house has eight or 10 bedrooms, and all student tenants have cars, one house can take up every parking space on the street.

Loyola psychology sophomore and New Orleans resident Electra Pelias said these changes impact Tulane and Loyola students too. Pelias said it is difficult finding housing that is affordable as a college student.

Loyola history and political science senior Jacquelynn France said she and her roommates moved into a two-unit, six-bedroom home because it was more affordable.

While the near $1,900 she pays collectively with her two roommates is too much for any one of them on their own, the $600 a month she contributes is much more manageable. “We are very lucky,” she said.

While these multi-unit homes may not be suitable for a family, they are all some students can afford, France said.

France said the first two years of on-campus housing she paid for were even more expensive than what she pays now. College Factual said the average housing cost for on-campus students at Loyola in 2020 was more than $7,000. Getting a meal plan is also a requirement for on-campus students, which College Factual said can cost up to $5,500. France said she spends less than that on food now that she lives off-campus.

Hardie said the problems with doubles to dorm conversions are also the fault of the universities.

When Pelias applied for on-campus housing the Fall 2021 semester, she was waitlisted before getting a spot. She said she knew some students who were forced to find places to live off-campus, and others that didn’t apply for fear Loyola might not have the space for them.

This comes as Loyola welcomes its largest incoming class in its history. Loyola’s website said there were nearly 1,000 freshman admitted, a 25% increase from last year’s numbers.

Rachel Hoorman, a university spokesperson, said that Loyola was able to reduce the number of rooms reserved for quarantine this year to expand capacity as much as safely possible. Despite this, Hoorman said about 40 students were denied housing this semester due to lack of space.

Tulane and Loyola are both trying to address the issue of housing availability on their campuses.

Loyola said there have been plans to build a new residence hall on the main campus since last year, though details are yet to be released.

Tulane is planning to build a residence hall where its old dining hall was located. The university website said the project will be complete by the fall of 2022 and will increase Tulane’s housing availability by nearly 700 beds.

Even as the universities have been making plans to expand on-campus housing, Giarusso said there were consistently complaints from permanent residents about these developments that spurred him and the council to take action.

That is when the City Council passed a motion in March 2020 that conducted a study to determine appropriate parameters for Uptown university area parking requirements in an attempt to make stricter parking regulations.

Another piece of legislation was passed restricting university area parking Oct. 7. The plan requires all new construction Uptown to add an off-street parking space per room above four bedrooms.

Giarusso said there was an “overwhelmingly positive” response from residents to the new regulations.

Even after the creation of the parking overlay, Hardie believes there will still need to be new rules put in place to deal with these issues.

“The developers will continue to work to find ways to increase profits – mainly by increasing the number of bedrooms – and it is likely that the rules will have to be amended to address their new strategies,” Hardie said.