An important, non-partisan civic leader coined the phrase to describe the challenge currently facing West Lafayette. The 2010 census data made that person's point. While our population has clearly risen beyond the 818 new souls identified in the recent census, only a fraction of the those residents call this place home.
Last decade our population rose 2.8% And Bloomington's ? 16 %
The Area Plan Commission's presentation at the March West Lafayette City Council meeting showed how this took place. From a 60%-40% owner/renter ratio in 1960, we are now at a 30%-70% owner/renter ratio. In response, the APC suggested carrying the following policy forward from its 1981 plan:
Neighborhood stability is to be promoted through a program of strong, equitable code enforcement, and continuing public investment in the maintenance of public facilities and services. Neighborhood associations and property owner associations are to be encouraged and permitted active participation in decision-making activities. Lending institutions are to be encouraged to provide neighborhood residents with a sufficient supply of home improvement financing. The feasibility of tax deferral and abatement programs designed to encourage housing rehabilitation is to be explored. Any infill construction is to mirror the existing physical character of the neighborhood.
The 2011 APC Housing Element Update also includes these new statements:
Promote and market existing neighborhoods and their amenities. In older neighborhoods, support preservation of historic structures and their unique architecture.
Zoning and land use decisions near the Purdue campus area shall implement efforts to re-establish an appropriate mix of owner-occupied and student-renter occupied housing.
The passage of the New Unified Zoning Ordinance (NUZO - 1997) served to encourage new work in neighborhood housing. Lutz St. was "down zoned". New Chauncey Housing Inc. was founded in 1997 to work toward affordable housing for low income persons. DeAnn and Chris Baker began to purchase and rehabilitate higher cost homes (New Chauncey Foundation). The city won the landmark City of West Lafayette vs. Benjamin over-occupancy case in 1998. City occupancy codes were toughened, requiring local property management.
But "Mailcode" was bought and the Baker's moved on. Weida replaced Benjamin in court. New Chauncey Housing reached a plateau. There was and is no historic preservation ordinance in West Lafayette to help maintain property values.
Purdue's enrollment increased and the University moved, until very recently, away from on-campus housing. At the same time professional rental corporations grew in number along with the development of commercial dormitories. The number of "kiddie condos" exploded.
So now we have the lowest average income in Indiana, reports the Indianapolis Star. We excuse the statistic by noting the student population. Does that really matter? We have become "Motel W-L". We face the "apartmentization" of West Lafayette.
As a “class three” city, we cannot continue to expect our small permanent population to continue to provide quality services to the wider population without re-energized partnerships with the Redevelopment Commission, Purdue, Lafayette, and Tippecanoe County. We must find a way to plan for a future beyond "apartmentization; to become, in the hopeful words of one Purdue administrator at a recent public meeting, a preeminent college town.