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Editorial: Town and gown both have roles in Stony Brook student housing

The landlord of one Stony Brook house, at

The landlord of one Stony Brook house, at 150 Christian Ave., shown, was cited in 2011 for allegedly renting rooms to 14 students in a single-family house. (July 29, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Stony Brook University and the Town of Brookhaven are in the midst of a classic town-gown conflict. Students face intense competition for on-campus housing, and few affordable options exist in the surrounding area. So many turn to landlords divvying up family homes into as many as 15 apartments, drawing the ire of local residents who fear their quaint neighborhoods morphing into student ghettos.

Part of the problem is excessive partying -- which is to be expected near a college campus but, as also expected, is not welcomed by neighbors. Landlords have also paved over front lawns and made other property changes to cram more tenants inside.

The town has appropriately brought 68 landlords to court for the alleged offenses, and officials are investigating as many as 40 more such cases. Students can be evicted if their landlords are found guilty of violations -- typically renting a house to more than four unrelated people.

Stony Brook has begun taking steps to combat the practice. Landlords advertising on the university website must now show valid rental permits, a change that cut the number using the service in half. The university has also begun educating students on the perils of illegal rentals.

But on-campus housing is filled to the brim, and that demand isn't going to disappear -- especially with at least 600 students in danger of eviction. The university does plan to build two dorms totaling 1,100 beds within the next five years. One proposal is out to bid, and the other is still being designed. The school must expedite those projects.

Brookhaven and Stony Brook officials have already opened a housing dialogue, one that must establish guidelines satisfactory to both students and residents. Keeping admissions in line with the supply of legal housing, however, falls on the university's shoulders. Unless it reduces enrollment, Stony Brook needs to add beds. Maintaining the balance is paramount in preventing the town-gown social fabric from fraying further.

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