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Downtown students will have to commute

More ASU students would likely commute to the downtown Phoenix campus rather than live near the University, projections show.

About 40 percent of the 15,000 students expected to study downtown could live in University housing, while 60 percent would travel from elsewhere when the campus reaches full capacity in 2012, said ASU spokeswoman Terri Shafer.

"We do not expect many students to live off campus in nearby neighborhoods," Shafer said.

Kevin Cook, vice provost and dean of student affairs for the Downtown campus, said ASU is evaluating possible housing options, including apartments and single-family homes students could rent.

Joan Kelchner, 54, is a resident of Phoenix's Roosevelt neighborhood and member of the Roosevelt Action Association, the non-profit organization representing the residents living there.

Kelchner said she worries absentee landlords could rent out homes to large numbers of students who lack concern for property upkeep. This could lead to deterioration of homes, declines in property values, loud parties and too many vehicles parked in driveways, she said.

Tempe residents have voiced similar concerns at city meetings. In response, the city has formed the Ad Hoc Rental Housing Task Force to address such issues.

"Having spent 20 years swinging the pendulum away from bad rentals and absentee landlords, we are concerned about the pendulum swinging the other way," Kelchner said.

The Roosevelt neighborhood in Phoenix extends from Seventh Avenue east to Central Avenue and from McDowell Road south to Roosevelt Street.

But students likely won't be able to afford rental housing in Roosevelt, said Andrew George, 38, who serves on the Phoenix Neighborhood Revitalization and Housing 2006 bond subcommittee, which suggests neighborhood improvement projects.

George said he couldn't afford to purchase his own 2,300-square-foot home now if he had to do so, as it would likely cost him about $700,000.

The Garfield neighborhood, with its cheaper homes and wider availability of vacant land, could be more vulnerable to investors buying homes for use as rentals, George said. Garfield stretches from Seventh Street east to 16th Street and from Loop 202 south to Van Buren Street.

Zoning requirements there could also allow investors to tear down single-family homes and construct residences with multiple units -- such as apartment complexes -- to replace them, George said.

Garfield has been plagued by crime and drug abuse, and has struggled to increase home ownership in recent years, said Luisa Stark, executive director of the Community Housing Partnership, which develops affordable housing for low-income residents.

Investors might disrupt neighborhood progress by purchasing single-family homes and renting them out to students without maintaining the properties, she said

George said there is a need for affordable student housing ASU won't be able to fill.

"By 2008, they want to be up to 8,000 [students]," George said. "Can they build student housing that fast? That remains to be seen."

Doug Fox, 77, a resident of the Garfield neighborhood, said he doesn't mind students moving into single-family homes as long as they show respect for their property and surrounding homeowners.

Even if students did throw disruptive parties, police would quickly shut them down if neighbors complained, he added.

"People aren't going to put up with unnecessary, over-long parties," Fox said.

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