Janesville41.1°

Do renters get a bad rap?

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Carla McCann
December 15, 2007
— As a developer and landlord, Russell Walton is frustrated by accusations that UW-Whitewater students living in neighborhoods off campus are disrupting the peace and beauty of their residential areas.

He believes the majority of students are good neighbors and responsible community residents.


Maxwell “Max” Taylor is a UW-Whitewater junior who lives with three roommates in a rental house in the city. He also is vice president of the Whitewater City Council, representing District 2.


Neither he, nor his roommates, have ever caused problems for neighbors or damaged their rental home, Taylor said.


“I think students get a bad rap,” he said.


Both Walton and Taylor were troubled by a recent Gazette story that told about another Whitewater city councilman’s efforts to maintain the integrity of neighborhoods by keeping student housing from expanding further across the city.


Councilman Dr. Roy Nosek, a dentist, staunchly opposes the spread of student housing from the central university area into all districts within the community.


They are illegally parking across sidewalks, hosting loud parties and failing to keep their lawns free of litter and trash, Nosek said.


But Taylor counters by saying that only about 5 percent of the students ever cause problems within the community.


“Yet, they are the ones the community focuses on,” Taylor said. “I don’t believe the majority of students should be punished for the actions of a small few.”


Walton said his job as a landlord isn’t something he takes lightly.


“I try to do the best job I can,” Walton said. “We work with the other residents in the area of our rentals to make sure they are not disrupted.”


That doesn’t mean problems have never occurred. But when they do, Walton said he immediately addresses them.


“Mostly, they all are pretty good kids,” Walton said. “I tell them they must be respectful of neighbors.”


Respect is the key for neighbors of all ages to live in harmony, he said.


Walton also seems to wear the hat of a father when dealing with students. If neighbors have complaints about “his kids,” as he calls the student renters, Walton immediately responds and takes steps to fix the situation, he said.


One night, a woman called to complain about a loud party at one of the rental properties Walton owns, so he drove over to investigate.


He found the noise was coming from another neighborhood blocks away.


“She was blaming my kids, but they were quiet,” Walton said.


Walton said he also was troubled by Nosek’s accusation that student housing had driven up the cost of buying a home in the city and made it harder for young families to buy homes here.


Student housing didn’t cause the problem, Walton said.


In the past, the city wasn’t expanding and had few homes, especially starter homes, for rent. That’s changed, Walton said.


Developers moved in and built many new housing units that range in price from the elite to starter homes, Walton said.


“Once the developers moved in, prices dropped immensely,” he added.


Taylor believes the community could be more accepting of its youthful neighbors.


“This is a college town,” Taylor said. “The city would be completely different if it wasn’t for the university, which is a tremendous asset to this community.


I believe the more we spread out and interact with the community, the better it is for everyone,” he added. “Segregating the two groups is a huge mistake.”



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