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Old 26 January 2011, 09:12 AM
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Default Students at NU face 'brothel rule' being enforced

Interesting (almost) sighting of the 'too many students = brothel' urban legend.


Evanston will enforce 'brothel rule' in July


Quote:
The Northwestern administration will not ask Evanston to reconsider its "brothel law," a zoning ordinance that will cause hundreds of students to be evicted next year from off-campus housing, a University official told THE DAILY on Monday.

The law, which prevents more than three unrelated people from living together, has not been enforced for years. But on July 1, Evanston will begin enforcing it, which will force landlords to evict some of the hundreds or thousands of NU students who live in off-campus houses or apartments with more than two roommates, city officials confirmed to THE DAILY on Monday.
To be fair, the actual article doesn't state that the reason that Northwestern University are suddenly facing renewed ordnances about limits to the numbers of unrelated students who can live together is because the dwelling would be deemed a brothel. Rather, as per the urban legend write up, the original ordnance seems to have been driven by attempts to curb overcrowding in slums. But that hasn't stopped the internet headlines calling this a 'brothel law', albeit in quotes marks.
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Old 28 January 2011, 09:09 AM
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We had an ordinance passed in this past Spring with similar intent. It bars more than two unrelated people from living together, making it more difficult for West Virginia University students to share a house in a residential neighborhood. There was no "brothel law" cite on this one, as it is new, just a lot of complaints from students who couldn't renew their leases for the Fall term.

The rule did catch students off guard, especially those that had shared a large house for a long time. It does not make sense to limit occupancy of a four-bedroom rental to two people. These college towns pass these laws in between terms while the students are away, congratulate themselves on improving the conditions for permenant residents, then act surprised at the traffic issues when the roads are overrun by 30,000 students, many of whom are now commuting instead of walking to class.
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  #3  
Old 28 January 2011, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Elwood View Post
It bars more than two unrelated people from living together...
My only question is: why?
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  #4  
Old 29 January 2011, 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Floater View Post
My only question is: why?
My college town tried something like this. The core reason if I remember right was a crackdown on illegal subleasing - they don't want someone renting a 3-bedroom house and then having 3 different renters. In larger cities I've heard of this being a problem because the landlords do it and cram too many people who aren't in a position to complain (immigrants, the very poor) into spaces to the point that health and fire codes are violated.

In my town, the primary issue was that many college students or families of college students were buying inexpensive multi-bedroom homes and renting out the unused bedrooms, resulting in 3-6 students living in the same place. More students usually meant more cars, and that meant parking on the street, which was a downright offensive idea to some residents. Then there were the complaints of kids being loud.

Not that some students weren't extremely annoying neighbors, but the public outcry went from the appropriate level of "This is annoying" to "GET OFF MY LAWN YOU WHIPPERSNAPPERS!"
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Old 31 January 2011, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Astra View Post
In larger cities I've heard of this being a problem because the landlords do it and cram too many people who aren't in a position to complain (immigrants, the very poor) into spaces to the point that health and fire codes are violated.
Of course, there's an easier way to deal with this issue - limit the number of adults per bedrooms regardless of who's related to whom. A slumlord can just as easily overcrowd a house with related individuals as non-related individuals.
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Old 31 January 2011, 07:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Astra View Post
In my town, the primary issue was that many college students or families of college students were buying inexpensive multi-bedroom homes and renting out the unused bedrooms, resulting in 3-6 students living in the same place. More students usually meant more cars, and that meant parking on the street, which was a downright offensive idea to some residents. Then there were the complaints of kids being loud.
That was the reason behind similar ordinances in my hometown, which is a college town. People who lived in family-oriented neighborhoods that happened to be physically close to the university objected when student rentals started popping up in their neighborhoods.

Some of the issues they raised were valid -- for example, more cars per house, when parking was already tight because the neighborhoods predated multi-car families (or even widespread middle-class automobile ownership). Others, as Astra said, were just anti-student bigotry.
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Old 09 February 2011, 08:48 AM
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Yeah, the permanent residents of Morgantown have been working pretty hard at herding the student population into particular areas. The enrollment at West Virginia University tripled over a few decades but the land is hemmed in by hills and rivers, so housing available remained relatively stagnant. This resulted in the de facto conversion of family homes into student homes, as landlords snapped up any houses for sale anywhere near campus. During my Freshman and Sophomore years in 1993-1995, it was pretty universal for upperclassmen to live two per bedroom in three or four-bedroom houses. Eight adults in a 4-people house may have been a little cramped, but no more so than dormitories, and with fewer rules and restrictions. The problem, from the permanent residents’ standpoint, was the perception (some justified, some not) that students were noisy and poor caretakers of their property. Anecdotally, most permanent residents among the student housing seemed to be at our near retirement age then. I suspect that younger, mobile families took advantage of rising housing downtown prices to sell and move to the suburbs while those who had been in the same house for decades stayed put.

I dropped out in 1995 and returned in 2010, so fast-forward to present times, where dedicated off-campus facilities have sprung up about 8 or 10 miles from campus that provide non-stop shuttle service back and force to campus. These places resemble condominiums and have superior amenities to the dorms, and from the residents’ perspective, serve keep the students out of sight. The restriction on un-related individuals is the latest attempt to make the downtown houses less attractive to students and landlords and more attractive to families. Somewhat ironically, this will almost certainly drive the prices of existing homes down.

I understand both points of view. If I bought a house in a relatively quiet neighborhood in my 20’s, I probably would not want to deal with increasing noise and traffic issues a couple of decades later. On the other hand, the city is completely dependent on the student population for its economy and all of the nightclubs and restaurants that cater to students are still near campus. In the 1990’s, a student could co-lease a house and walk everywhere he or she needed or wanted to go. Now, even with the shuttles the students still have go to the grocery store and the like, making them dependent on either a car or public transportation. Parking seems to be more of a nightmare than it ever was before, landlords are stuck with houses that they cannot rent and residences that are close to campus probably won’t be filled with young families anytime soon.
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Old 11 February 2011, 08:54 AM
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I think it's pretty common for residents in university towns to resent students. I certainly feel that we take a lot of the blame for noise and mess (though according to friends who worked in bars, the locals are just as bad, if not worst!). I do understand concern for lack of residential housing though. Last year I was trying to find a private flat to rent but I simply couldn't find anywhere within the city center that wasn't catered for students (i.e. shared accommodation such as what the city in the OP is trying to prevent).
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Old 11 February 2011, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Natalie View Post
Of course, there's an easier way to deal with this issue - limit the number of adults per bedrooms regardless of who's related to whom. A slumlord can just as easily overcrowd a house with related individuals as non-related individuals.
I think that the problem with that is if you limit a place to say 2 adults per bedroom than you are still talking about 8 people in a 4 bedroom house, which is exactly what they're trying to curb.

Plus I'd imagine that the writers of the law (and the people now stepping up enforcement) are less concerned about situations with related adults living in a single family dwelling. If you have a couple, two grown children & one set of in-laws living in a house; that's one thing and probably not what they were trying to address when they wrote the law.

Seems that the people stepping up enforcement of the law are wanting to use it to target college kids. Probably some variation on "they play their music too loud, they come and go at all hours of the night and since they are transient they don't have any incentive to keep up our neighborhood."
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Old 19 February 2011, 05:20 AM
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Originally Posted by fitz1980 View Post
I think that the problem with that is if you limit a place to say 2 adults per bedroom than you are still talking about 8 people in a 4 bedroom house, which is exactly what they're trying to curb.
I can't speak for any other area, but in Minneapolis it's not a simple x people per bedroom formula. A one bedroom rental can have up to 2 adults, but a 2 bedroom rental can also only have 2 adults (and some number of children, maybe 2 or 3). The regulations are set up to prevent exactly the scenario you describe, a boatload of adults in one home.

That said, I think you're entirely correct that the actual purpose of these laws is targeting college students.
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  #11  
Old 19 February 2011, 06:18 AM
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College students or other groups of young, unmarried adults cohabiting in a house. Seems that more established successful people don't like the idea of sharing their neighborhood with the kid of people who need to have several roommates in order to afford the payments on a single domicile.
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Old 22 February 2011, 07:02 PM
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There's an administrator currently spreading this legend at my wife's college. They have a Greek system but no houses. He's also spoken to the student newspaper about his opposition to Greek life, so it makes me wonder if he's aware of the falsity of it and simply trying to take advantage of students' ignorance of the UL.
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  #13  
Old 02 March 2011, 08:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fitz1980 View Post
College students or other groups of young, unmarried adults cohabiting in a house. Seems that more established successful people don't like the idea of sharing their neighborhood with the kid of people who need to have several roommates in order to afford the payments on a single domicile.
Unfortunately for them, I think this kind of living situation is only going to get more common and less exclusive to the student/young adult population.
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  #14  
Old 04 March 2011, 07:06 PM
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I agree that part of the motivation amongst full time residents is that they just don't like the extra traffic and noise, and I also agree that a lot of this - when directed at immigrants rather than students - is fueled at least partially by racism, or simply classism (people who don't like you if you're poor, regardless of skin colour).

To be fair though, there is also some legitimate concerns.

I once sat on a municipal committee studying the issue of "secondary dwelling units" in our town. I remember the committee chair - while twisting his gold cufflinks - saying how he wouldn't mind the secondary units at all if it were for purposes of housing servants and maids! So I have seen the classism first hand.

At the same time, his dubious motivation did not stop that chair from being correct when he enumerated the legitimate infrastructure concerns. Not till they brought in the urban planners to brief our committee did I really start to understand all of the variables and dependents that go into urban planning, and most of those are affected by population density. If you have a zone of 3 bedroom houses that each contain, on average 4 family members and suddenly allow them to be turned into student housing containing up to 8 students, then you have literally doubled the population density of that zone.

Why is that a problem? Parking has already been mentioned, but even that is a more complex issue than just noise and annoyance. The specs for the road construction are mandated based on estimated traffic levels. In other words, the roads are often only strong enough for the population density that the planners thought was going to be there. Same thing for sewer and water connections. Pipes can be laid down in any size and number, and so the systems are designed with the population density in mind. Take a sewer system designed to handle X number tonnes of sewage and start feeding 2X tonnes into it, and you're going to have a smelly break down! Ditto with the electric systems, which are built for the estimated loads of a certain population. Double that load, and the system won't be able to take it.

On I could go, but the point is the same: a wide array of infrastructure elements are designed to handle a maximum population density, and these types of rental agreements often increase that density far in excess of what the systems can handle.

Of course, as that chair twirled his gold cufflinks and talked of maids, I doubt those infrastructure concerns were foremost in his mind, but they are legitimate all the same.
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