Oct 062004
 
Authors: Joe Marshall

Why can’t we all just get along?

For the umpteenth straight year, CSU students and Fort Collins

residents are gathering at the generation gap’s widest point to

kick, scream and point fingers at the other side. The perennial

battle over a city ordinance barring more than three-unrelated

persons from living together is under way once again.

The latest chapter in this saga is a proposal to require those

who own and rent out residential property in Fort Collins to be

licensed by the city. Because I happen to be one of those freaks

that find the intricacies of local government interesting, I

decided to look into the proposal after reading about it in

Tuesday’s Collegian.

What I discovered is that this proposal would actually help the

plight of the student tenant. Furthermore, this proposal, if

properly drafted, could solve for the city the decades-long dispute

over the well-intentioned, but largely unenforceable

three-unrelated ordinance.

The ordinance has been on the books in Fort Collins since the

1960s. Landlords seeking to fill their rental properties have been

ignoring the three-unrelated person clause since, well, the 1960s.

Since owning and leasing a rental property is largely a private

matter, the city has difficulty enforcing the code, and landlords

can easily deny having a hand in any infraction.

The three-unrelated ordinance is intended to keep population

densities low in areas zoned as low density, such as single-family

neighborhoods. This is a justifiable aim of the city on behalf of

the citizens seeking to live in a low-density area.

The ordinance’s main flaw is that it also applies to residences

in areas zoned as medium- and high-density, such as the

neighborhoods immediately north and east of campus. Occupied almost

exclusively by students already living four or more to a residence

and uninhibited by the presence of so many neighbors, these areas

have never abided by the ordinance and are now largely overlooked

by it.

In addition, because of the deregulated nature of private

housing agreements in the city, many of the houses in this area

occupied by students are in a state of disrepair and are fire

and/or health hazards, yet because of the location their rent is

inflated.

Rental licensing will force landlords to keep their rentals up

to code, making them safer places to live.

Opponents of rental licensing, mainly students, claim that the

cost of these repairs will be levied upon the tenants, making

living in a prime location even more expensive. This is only a

half-truth. According to the federal office of Housing and Urban

Development, the renter vacancy rate in Fort Collins at the

beginning of 2004 was 13.9 percent. In short, it’s a renter’s

market.

Because rental licensing would hold property owners more

accountable for the condition of their rentals and for their

leasing methods, the practice would benefit both the tenant and the

neighborhood. In order for the new law to be effective, however,

the three-unrelated ordinance must be altered.

Areas populated by large numbers of students, such as the

medium- and high-density zones near campus, as well as pockets of

low-density neighborhood west of campus, should be exempted from

the three-unrelated ordinance under the new proposal. Yes, much to

the chagrin of a few homeowners, this will effectively turn these

areas into a student ghetto of sorts.

But doing so will accomplish two main objectives and solve the

now age-old dispute between transient student renters and more

permanent neighbors. First, the two opposing sides will not be

forced to live among each other. Second, if students do choose to

live among older members of the community or vice-versa, the

municipal statutes can be enforced free of hypocrisy.

The City Council, by way of this new proposal, has an

opportunity to settle the long-standing grudge held between the

students and the residents of Fort Collins. While it is impossible

to please everyone, adopting a practice of rental licensing and

amending the three-unrelated clause would be a solution all of Fort

Collins could live with.

Joe Marshall is a senior history major. His column runs on

Thursdays.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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