Is “You Plus Two” Fair?

The Northern Colorado Connection, Fort Collins, Colorado
Submitted by: Kollin Vandersluis, May 12, 2009

Imagine being a nineteen year old freshman in college about half way through your first year. This is the time most freshman and all other students need to start looking for places to live for the following year. Now you and a few of your friends find the perfect place, it’s close to campus, it big, roomy, and relatively cheap since you will be dividing the cost between the 4 of you. You meet with the landlord and immediately get shot down because the law in Fort Collins states that only three unrelated persons can live in the same house together. This is a problem that many college students are faced with every year. In this situation, you have two choices. The first, bail on one of your friends and find a three bedroom house that is cheaper. This however will be difficult to do because many houses around campus have 4 or more bedrooms and will be extremely pricy with only 3 people. The second, find a landlord that disregards this ordinance and who will allow more than three unrelated people to live in his or her home. The latter choice seems to be more common in Fort Collins as many landlords will lose potential tenants if they turn down kids that cannot afford to live with only 2 other people.

The ordinance has been around since the ‚Äò60’s and has been revised multiple times since then. The actual law states that no more than one family and one additional person, two adults and their dependants (if any) and an additional person, or a maximum of three unrelated people are allowed to live together in any house, apartment, duplex, etc within the city of Fort Collins according to the city website. The website also states that the original goal of the ordinance was to ensure the health and safety of residents. According to Stephen Lin of the Collegian, in a senate meeting with the Associated Students of Colorado State University Mike Gebo, Deputy Building Official stated that enforcing the ordinance is still a major concern in Fort Collins and the goal is to ‚Äúestablish and maintain single family neighborhoods‚Äù. Just recently, according to an article by Madeline Novey from the Collegian, on May 5th of this year, the city council passed an amendment strengthening the ordinance. With the new amendment to the law, investigators are no longer required to issue a warning of violation. Initially, tenants would be given this warning to correct the problem within seven days of receiving the violation in order to prevent getting a citation. Now, a citation can be given immediately, without warning, giving the tenants exactly seven days to move out and a one thousand dollar fine for each person including the landlord.

Personally, I feel that the ordinance is absolutely ridiculous and it is something that this town needs to get rid of. The ordinance does nothing but rob college students of fair costs of living. The town of Fort Collins is made by its income from the 25,000 CSU rams living here from the months of August to May and likely somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand year round. For these college students, being able to live with only 3 unrelated people is causing many people to either break the law or pay unnecessary high rent costs. I conducted a survey of college students on campus targeting only students who are currently living off campus and I saw no correlation between the number of students living in a house and the amount of disturbances being caused. Out of the 50 surveyed, a whopping 20 percent have had the police called on them (most likely by a neighbor) at some point in their collegiate careers due to excess noise. Of this 20 percent, exactly half of them lived with 3 or less people. This tells me that there is no reason to limit the number of occupants in a house or apartment because plain and simple it is not effective. The point I am trying to make is that with or without this ordinance, college kids will throw parties, barbeques, be disrupt the quietness of any neighborhood regardless of how many people are actually living with them. That is just one downfall of living in a college town and no ordinance is going to change that no matter what the consequences are.

A few days ago I conducted an interview with a landlord, who we’ll call Tim, who would like to remain anonymous due to the controversy of the ordinance. Tim owns a home in Fort Collins in an area near campus and rents primarily to college students. It is a 6 bedroom, 2 bathroom house and he commonly rents to four unrelated students. His feelings on the ordinance became quite clear to me early in the interview. He feels that renting a house that size to three people is more dangerous than four. ‚ÄúWith only three people, the chances of illegal activities going on inside the house are much higher than with four,‚Äù says Tim. He typically finds that with 4 people in the house there is much less chance of serious conflict and he has never received word of any kind of complaint against the tenants in his house.

Fort Collins is a city that thrives off of the profits brought in from college students. In an article in the Collegian written by Christopher Wheeler, he states ‚ÄúThere is simply no way to call Fort Collins a ‘student friendly town’ due to the ‘you plus two’ law involving occupancy limits.‚Äù Wheeler talks about how the University should be able to help out its students. The more affordable houses in Fort Collins have an average bus ride of 37 minutes according to the article. Wheeler needed a better location in order to help his success as a student at CSU and the house he found was a 5 bedroom. He states, ‚ÄúBecause of the ‚Äòyou plus two’ rule, however, two bedrooms in my house sit empty, draining my pockets of money that could very easily be provided by two responsible (tax contributing, I might add) residents of Fort Collins.‚Äù So if the students of CSU could largely benefit without it costing the city anything, it just doesn’t make sense to burden Fort Collins and its student population with such an unnecessary ordinance.

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Here is an additional article on the same topic from the Northern Colorado Connection.

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