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Significant Impacts

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Editor:

I thought the article about the lack of student housing in Arcata lacked depth of understanding of local economics, wages and basic return on capital ("Homeless State University," Dec. 8). The large student population in Arcata has a mixed impact on the city and its long term residents. The positives about living in a college town ... I am sure the readers can come up with various things, like the four or so coffee shops we have and the five or six bars. The negatives, if you are a long-term resident, are significant. While students bring a net inflow of capital from outside the region in the form of students loans, grants and support from parents that are spent here, the expenditures benefit mostly a small group of business investors, particularly those who have a long-term investment in residential rental properties.

For the local working class, students, as an externally subsidized part-time work force, depress wages (hey, they are getting that check from mom and pops or the government; working at the local coffee shop is just pocket change) and increase the cost of housing through competition for scarce housing.

Housing in Arcata is scarce (no new building) because the ratio of return on capital investment is low because wages are low, property taxes are high and a significant proportion of the tenants in a college town are short-term renters. In my experience, students, as a group, tend to be poor tenants because they rent short term and tend to damage property. That is why property owners want first, last and a significant deposit. If you think the housing market is tough here (it isn't) try Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, New York, Boston or any other large metropolitan area.

William Hart, Arcata

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