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Campus Neighbors labor to maintain quality of life


May 2, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

SPRINGFIELD — With a mission of working with the community to preserve the quality of life for residents of neighborhoods in the vicinity of the city's colleges and universities, the Campus Neighbors of Springfield are preparing to celebrate their second anniversary this June.

Campus Neighbors of Springfield, which will also be marking its first year as an incorporated nonprofit organization, is made up of approximately 30 households, primarily in the Sixteen Acres neighborhood, and exists to address the concerns residents have regarding off-campus housing.

"We're a grassroots group working with Western New England University (WNE) and other colleges to help create a partnership between the neighbors and the institutions to ameliorate some of the issues," Colleen Moynihan, one of the founders of Campus Neighbors of Springfield, said.

While problems such as noise and vandalism are addressed, Moynihan said the group's focus is much broader and centers on education and ensuring that landlords are in compliance with the city's regulations.

"Off-campus housing has a number of components in regards to how the property is handled," she said. "From the college perspective, in some areas, the school does not see it as their responsibility. Springfield has very clear ordinances and we are working with the city to make sure those are enforced.

"We provide resources and information that is available through the city and other means to help sustain property values," she added.

Representatives from the school, as well as some landlords have been known to engage in constructive discussions with the Campus Neighbors of Springfield that have yielded positive results, Moynihan said.

"Recently, we had one landlord write language into his lease that would keep him and the tenants in compliance with the city's ordinances and we hope to be able to reach more so the situation is enviable for everyone," she said.

Moynihan also said she is hopeful that in the fall WNE and the Campus Neighbors of Springfield would be hosting an orientation for students interested in off-campus housing.

"The college has an open and active policy that allows students to live off campus during their junior and senior years, so they do have some level of responsibility," she said. "With this orientation, we would make sure that students know what their responsibilities as members of the neighborhood would be."

Moynihan said one of the major concerns is the growing number of absentee landlords in the area.

"We know of similar concerns in the Springfield College and [American International College] neighborhoods," she said. "The issues there have been allowed to mature and we don't want that to happen."

Moynihan went on to explain that the increase in absentee landlords could not only create nuisance for residents, but a much bigger problem.

"As more and more people leave the city and turn to renting the properties they have in Springfield, the city is going to be challenged," she said. "Businesses are going to see what is going on and respond accordingly."

The Campus Neighbors of Springfield meet monthly in the Community Room at the Springfield Public Library's Sixteen Acres branch on either the first or second Tuesday of the month, depending on the availability of the room, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for May 7.

For more information, contact Moynihan at 782-6839 or campusneighbors@ymail.com.

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