Congratulations. Your choice of roommates no longer makes you a criminal. As of Jan. 1, if there are four of you living in your house, you’re all “civil offenders.”
By now, everyone knows about “three-unrelated” or “you plus two” – the new city ordinance that makes it easier to fine students for “illegal” living arrangements. Under pressure from long-time homeowners, our city council overwhelmingly approved the new law in order to combat “nuisances” (that’s us) in neighborhoods near campus.
I’m going to make a prediction: It won’t help. Students will still party loudly, homeowners will still write angry letters, city council will still demonize students, and CSU administration will still sit back and shrug.
It won’t help because it’s an unjust and arbitrary law – a household of four can be perfect neighbors just as easily as a household of three can hold noisy partiers.
In fact, three-unrelated is likely to make the situation worse for everyone. Since enforcement of the law can only start with a citizen complaint, the prospect of neighborhood snitches demolishes any hope of trust between neighbors.
The law has already displaced hundreds of students from their living arrangements, sending them scurrying into new rental housing. Basic economics tells us that rents all over town will rise.
I’d love to be wrong, but my Magic 8 Ball warns: “Outlook not so good.”
Sure, CSU can – and should – offer more on-campus housing, but that’ll take years, if not decades. ASCSU should build bridges with City Council, but Councilman Kelly Ohlson, whose district includes campus, still wants to tighten the screws on students. Homeowners aren’t about to change their tune, either.
Like most of life, there’s really only one way to de-escalate this situation: We have to take matters into our own hands. Sound painful? Not really. It’s a simple, three-step program to get to the point where, eventually, three-unrelated can be overturned and students won’t be penalized merely for their choice of roommates.
First, even if the law is stupid, follow it. Otherwise, all students get tagged as criminals. Flaunting “you plus two” isn’t a noble act of civil disobedience, and it isn’t “sticking it to the man,” either. “The man” isn’t listening.
Second, be vocal. Not at 2 a.m., but on Tuesday evenings at City Council meetings. Just once while you’re here – especially if you’ve been affected by three-unrelated – go up to City Hall on Laurel Street and spend two minutes telling the City Council, politely but firmly, what you think. Students get shafted by city government because we don’t make our voices heard.
Third, and most importantly, get to know your neighbors. Yes, even the ones who called the police on your party last semester.
They’re not evil people, but they’re so used to the revolving door of students that they’ve dehumanized us. It’s not about being a goody-goody or caving in. It’s about acting in your own self-interest and defusing problems before they start.
In the end, people, not laws, will solve our problems – and the only ones who can really solve this one are we as students.
Seth Anthony is the head of the CSU Libertarians. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.