Sep 282009
 
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

Ryan Koeneke may be living in his truck this semester, or so he said, after he and his three roommates were caught in violation of the city’s occupancy ordinance two weeks ago.

At the educational roundtable held by student government Monday afternoon, Koenoke, a sophomore environmental and radiological health major, was joined by about 25 students, a few city staff members and a number of community members to discuss possible changes to the city’s controversial occupancy ordinance, commonly known as U+2 or 3-Unrelated.

Earlier this month the Associated Students of CSU officially released a “working document” of suggested changes to the ordinance. These changes were a major part of Wednesday’s discussion:

Changing 3-Unrelated to 4-Unrelated,

Extra-occupancy rental availability,

Extending the correction time from 7 to 30 days, and

Increasing education and enforcement of other peacekeeping ordinances.

In addition to student government’s proposed changes, Fort Collins city staff offered six other options to the discussion, including allowing as many tenants as legal bedrooms, exemptions for couples living together with other tenants, rental registration in low-density zones of the city, rental licensing, “hardship waivers” for low-income residents requesting extra occupancy and making no change to the current ordinance.

Non-traditional student, Fort Collins homeowner, former realtor and landlord Chris Davison attended the forum as a rental property owner who said he is able to identify with both sides of the argument.

“The city’s definition of ‘family’ is outdated. People live much differently than they did in the ’60s when U+2 first arose,” he said, later adding that he understands that “rundown houses diminish the value of surrounding properties.”

Davison said the ordinance discriminates against college-aged renters, and while there are properties that bring down neighborhood quality, in most cases it isn’t the fault of the tenets but the property owner.

“There’s a difference between slumlords and landlords: slumlords are owners who are disinterested in the maintenance of their rental property and are banking on some kind of magical market appreciation in the future,” Davison said.

He said that the city has an expectation that landlords find families to rent their property to, and while he’d love have that option, that’s just not how the market works.

“Only 5 percent of possible tenets I’ve interviewed are families. It’s a college student rental market,” Davison said.

Doug Brobst, a Rolland Moore homeowner member and member of the Fort Collins Stakeholders group, said he is a supporter of U+2 because it protects the quality of neighborhoods – it “protects the investment.”

Personal experience with unruly college students throwing late night parties and trashing the area around their home, he said, has taken away from the “family environment” his neighborhood have strived to preserve.

On the other hand, Tucker Kern, a sophomore engineering major, described the current U +2 law as ineffective but said certain aspects of ASCSU’s proposal, such as changing the 3-Unrelated law to 4-Unrelated, would be a good comprise, particularly for keeping parts of the city family oriented.

“Personally, I don’t understand why a family would want to live next to CSU,” Kern said. “What’s U+2 pretending to fix?”

ASCSU Beat Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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