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Ordinances could restrict off-campus housing

City Council to vote Sept. 17 on zoning ordinances that would place limits on student renting

Metro Editor
Wednesday, September 16, 2015

No more than three students will be allowed to live in a single-family home in certain areas of the city if the Providence City Council passes new zoning ordinances Sept. 17.

The Council will vote on two distinct ordinances. One would define the term “student” under zoning law, and the second would bar more than three students from living in single-family homes at one time in R-1 and R-1A zones. R-1 and R-1A zones encompass single-family homes in “neighborhoods of low-density residential development,” according to Providence zoning ordinances.

The ordinances were introduced by City Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, representing Ward 5 which includes areas around Rhode Island College and Providence College, places where students have exhibited disruptive behavior, according to multiple sources. Ryan did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

There are several R-1 zones around the University. The non-campus areas between Governor and Benefit streets and between Williams and Waterman streets are largely R-1 zones. The land near the Erickson Athletic Complex on the corner of Angell and Hope Streets is also an R-1 zone. Additionally, the area between Angell and Barnes Streets and between Thayer and Congdon Streets is an R-1 zone.

The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union came out in opposition to the ordinances yesterday. “Our concern is with the breadth itself,” said Hillary Davis, a policy associate at RIACLU. “The definition of student is so broad,” she said.

The ordinance gives landlords the ability to discriminate not only against undergraduate students but also graduate students or anyone taking any course on a college campus, Davis said. “Those impacts are significant and severe,” she said, adding, “It’s a students’ rights issue. It’s a discrimination issue. It’s a due process issue.”

A similar ordinance in Narragansett that prohibited more than three unrelated individuals from living in the same house was struck down in court, Davis said.

The ordinance also “undermines the underlying issue,” Davis said. While the complaint that college students in single-family homes cause disturbances by holding illegal parties in residential neighborhoods is valid, those concerns “can be dealt with under the vast majority of existing statutes,” she added.

Mark Nickel, acting director of news and communications, said city council members shared an “early draft” of the ordinance with the member schools of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, which includes Brown.

“We are very committed and very serious about keeping good relationships with our neighbors,” Nickel said.

Dan Egan, president of the AICURI, said the association has not taken a stance on the ordinances.


  1. The Constitution says:

    Two words: Due process

  2. This is not a constitutional issue. Many communities have reasonable restrictions of the sort that the city wants to put in place. The real solution to this is that Brown should build enough housing for all of its students to live on campus. Campus life and residential family life are very different. If students want to have a campus–like living experience, then they should live on campus–rather than expanding the vibrant, noisy and late night campus life to quiet residential neighborhoods. The east side is a very established residential neighborhood filled with families. These citizens have the right to a quiet, orderly and clean neighborhood experience.

    • “These citizens have the right to a quiet, orderly and clean neighborhood experience.”
      I fail to see how 4 students living in a 4BR house violates that right.

      Couldn’t I argue that if you don’t want to live near college students that you shouldn’t live near a college?

      • The parallel growth of the East side neighborhood and Brown means that both of these institutions need to live and work together. It is quite obnoxious to state that we should not live near a college if you don’t like the noise etc. A Brown student spends four years on campus and then leaves RI. Many folks on the east side have lived in Providence for decades and have built a very vibrant community Stop being so self centered with your attitude There should absolutely be limits on the number of renters. The more renters In a unit the more propensity for parties, late night noise and litter. Walk around the east side near the end of the school and look at the amount of garbage, beer cans, used furniture dumped on the road. It is sickening.

        • You are right, both institutions need to live and work together. It is quite obnoxious to say that 4 graduate students can’t live in a 4BR apartment in your neighborhood. Brown university has been in that spot for over a hundred years, while many families move in and out after a decade or two. Stop being so self centered with your attitude. There should absolutely not be a limit of 3 unrelated people in an apartment with more than 3 bedrooms.

          If you want harsher punishments for noise and litter, you have my full support.

  3. ShadrachSmith says:

    AICURI has not taken a position on anti-student zoning? Do you pay those guys? Why?

    Yes it is a constitutional issue, discrimination based on status is always a constitutional issue. Don’t trust the ACLU or the university…SJW are all about limiting rights…and a nice eight-figure contribution to the Clinton Foundation might get them interested in protecting you.

    Spend an hour reading about zoning + discrimination and you will then know your rights and remedies…unless you are sheeple…which is entirely possible.

    • Yes clearly the ACLU is all about limiting rights….

      • ShadrachSmith says:

        That is a long discussion about the Rawlsian liberty principle and California Justice Goodwin Liu’s, “Keeping Faith with the Constitution” (2009).
        The short version is that I’m absolutely correct and if you are really interested, I will walk you through it.
        But if you are just hanging out by the lamppost of conversations shouting insults at passing strangers…you wouldn’t really be interested in why, would you 🙂

        • Walk me through it then

          • ShadrachSmith says:

            There is a price, You have already failed to produce a news article about the ACLU bailing on the 2nd Amendment. I will give you another chance. Hayek’s definition of liberty is the absence of coercion. What is Rawls liberty principle.

            If you won’t bother to search and post that, you have no interest in understanding what is wrong with trusting the ACLU to protect your liberty.

          • Look bud. I took one philosophy course in my life. As best as I can understand, it’s about everyone having basic liberties. I can tell you more of what I just read on wikipedia and you can lord your superiority over me, or you can give even the slightest hint of an argument instead of telling me I am stupid and uninterested in learning.

            And the ACLU has long taken that interpretation of the 2nd amendment, unless I’m missing something. Again, a mature adult would simply post the reference instead of obliquely hinting at it.

            Then again, we know you’re just here to laugh at the stupid kids.

          • ShadrachSmith says:

            I’m trying to discuss freedom.

            “a. Each person has an equal right to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties which is compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for all.
            b. Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions. First, they must be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they must be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society”(1993, 291).

          • I never really took much of a stance. You made a statement that I didn’t understand and I followed up.

            One thing I’m completely sure of is that you’re full of yourself.

          • ShadrachSmith says:

            I was pretty sure that is your topic, right from the start 🙂

          • arrogance pretty much defines you.

      • aclu is full of people who want to do whatever they want and who think the law is something to work around, not something to be respected.

  4. Students are not a protected class. Also many beach communities have limitations on the number of unrelated persons that can live/rent one house to avoid rowdy summer beach house noise, litter etc. these regulations have been on the books for years and withstood legal challenges. ACLU should focus on serious housing issues– not protecting rich Brown students who live off campus for ok living together. Brown should invest in more dorms and keep campus life on campus

    • The issue is that there isn’t any land for more dorms. To build, Brown would likely have to knock down historic houses in the area. I’d rather have students living among the East Side residents than Brown destroying the neighborhood.

      • If you believe there is no room for Brown to build dorms, then Brown should shrink its student body. However I do believe the university owns property on the east side where it would be permitted to build large dorms. No homes need to be destroyed. And besides the houses that students rent are for the most part not well maintained homes– so that is not preserving the east side character either. Also there is plenty of land for student housing downtown

      • Not as historic as the roads says:

        “Old” =/= “historic”.

  5. Oh please. If you think there is unruly behavior or don’t want loud parties, then crack down on that. Litter is also already illegal. The number of affected individuals who are not a part of the problem is far greater than those who are.

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