MSA votes to stand against occupancy ordinance

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The Minnesota Student Association voted to take a stand against Minneapolis zoning regulations that don’t allow for more than three unrelated people to occupy a single-family residence at its meeting Tuesday.

Representatives debated for more than an hour over whether to take up the city issue. The resolution eventually passed in an 18-13 vote.

The ordinance has been a problem in the past for off-campus student renters with homes in areas that are only zoned for three unrelated occupants — despite their proximity to campus.

Though they are only zoned for three unrelated occupants, many larger homes have more than three bedrooms and landlords fill them with more renters. If more than three renters are unrelated, they’re breaking the law.

In an informal Minnesota Daily housing survey last year, 40 percent of properties in neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota campus were found to be over-occupied.

Many of the students who live in over-occupied houses told the Daily they were unaware of the law, and others said they were willing to violate the city ordinance for cheaper rent.

“Over-occupancy has made it really attractive for landlords to come into these neighborhoods and generate unbelievable rents,” said Bill Dane, a University Student Legal Service representative.

But Dane also warned the forum that this change will be a difficult one.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents much of the University student housing neighborhood, supports changing the ordinance to eliminate the distinction between related and unrelated adults.

He also wants to make the occupancy limit correspond to the size of the residence. But Gordon’s proposal has languished in the City Council.

“MSA has a tough fight ahead of them,” Dane said. Because there are 13 individual wards in the city, most council members don’t represent areas like Gordon’s where student housing is an issue, Dane said.

He also brought up the idea of changing the rule for specific areas around the University but said even that would be a “tough sell.”

“The city doesn’t want to have [different] rules in different places, and that’s what [supporters are] up against when they try to push it through the council,” he said.

Jan Morlock, director of community relations for University Relations, pointed out that there are problems involving more people living in a single-family home.

“The more unrelated people [living in a home] compared to a family means more garbage, automobiles and more wear and tear on the cost of the infrastructure of the city,” Morlock said.

MSA President Lizzy Shay opposed the resolution.

“Given the difficulty, there is probably a more effective way for us to address this issue that doesn’t affect the entire city of Minneapolis,” Shay said. “We can all agree that there can be improvements made to student housing, but I don’t think this is the best method for that to happen.”

But Colter Heirigs, director of legislative affairs, disagreed and pushed for the change.

“This is literally a no-lose situation for us,” he said. “It might be a tough fight for MSA, but we should look into the interest of students and adapt the current policy to allow students to live legally in houses.”