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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

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.



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