Bridgeport to crack down on overcrowding in homes housing Sacred Heart students

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Bridgeport officials announced Sunday they will be cracking down on overcrowded housing in the city's North End, where residents have complained about loud parties and parking problems.

Mayor Joe Ganim saying he's created a task force to address the issue, which he says has resulted from too many college students living at the same address.

"We'll keep that diligence up and I want to thank the leadership of the City Council members in the North End to work with me and the residents to ensure that there's respect for residents and that students are not out of hand. That will be our call and we'll continue to push it as best we can," said Ganim.

He also said the city is working on a plan to reduce the number of people who can live in the same house, from four to three.

Sacred Heart University called the proposal "ill-conceived" and said it will harm property values.

"First, we would like to respond to the characterization of our students as hooligans who have turned the North End into a 'college dormitory run amok.' We understand that there are issues, and we have continuously tried to work with the North End to find solutions that would be 'win-win' situations. These include paying Bridgeport police officers for extra patrols to the North End during the times of year when students are prone to partying. We also strongly communicate with our students about the consequences should they be discovered participating in underage drinking or attending an excessively noisy party. These consequences are harsh—up to and including fines, suspension from participating in University-sponsored events, including participating on athletic teams, and even suspension from the University itself. That said, we also know there are North End residents who are delighted to have our students as neighbors and are grateful for their willingness to help them shovel snow, carry in groceries, etc.

Another solution that we supported was the proposal to develop the obsolete Monticello Garden Apartments complex into housing. This project was completely independent of the University and no lease was signed by us. It seemed like a great solution to centralize students currently living in the North End to a location close to our main campus, while at the same time reducing the amount of rented housing. We estimate the proposal would have led to 100 fewer rentals in the surrounding neighborhoods. To our surprise, some council members from the North End were vehemently opposed to that proposal even though it would, in effect, help achieve their stated goal of reducing the number of students living in their neighborhoods.

We find this most recent proposal to be extremely shortsighted. It will only serve to decrease home values in the North End and will move students more deeply into the neighborhoods. The reality is that our students are now part of the North End fabric, and that is not going to change. Nor should anyone want it to change. Our students and their families spend a great deal of money in Bridgeport and Fairfield. In Bridgeport alone, where many students reside, there are 17 small businesses accepting the SHU card, and they happily welcome our students back to the area each fall. The loss of revenue the card provides would have a significant impact on local merchants. It doesn't seem that proponents of this proposal took that into consideration.

All that said, this is a landlord issue as it depletes the housing values of their homes as well as those of their neighbors. Clearly, these North End homes have greater value than in other parts of the city. If this ill-conceived policy is adopted, then both landlords and resident homeowners will see a market decline. Nonetheless, we intend to continue to work with the mayor's office whenever and wherever we can to find solutions that benefit everyone."

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