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Family Unit

June 28, 2015

It’s been all over the news lately: foreign students are crammed into houses near the university.  These are rooming houses in all but name.  Neighbors have complained.  Actually, most of the complaints came from one neighbor.  Most of them were about one house, a former fraternity house.  The students were quiet and inoffensive, but neighbors could identify the houses by their unkempt yards, and of course by the numbers of students going in and out.

The owner of one house stated that it complied with all the regulations for single-family homes.  The house had three kitchens, one on each floor.  Many students lived there.  The city also responded to the publicity.  It confirmed that the house complied with the zoning regulations for a single-family house.  However, the councellor for the area claimed that the house was obviously not complient, and that more and better inspections were needed.

The bylaw for single-family homes states that the house must be occupied by one family unit.  What’s that anyway?  It can’t be limited to a married couple and their children.  That would leave out too many families.  It has to be broader than that.  The city defines a family unit as a group of people living together, with one person being responsible for paying the rent.  Maybe that’s too broad?

Housing, at least in new developments, is mostly single-family homes.  They are required to have some percentage of multiple-family homes, even though these are opposed by the developers and by the home owners.  Developers make more money from single-family homes; they’d prefer to have nothing but them.  Home owners believe that multi-family homes lower the value of their own homes by attracting undesirable people to their neighborhood.  They also maintain standards for yards;  they will complain about people who don’t mow their grass or remove their weeds.

Students, of course, like to stay near the university.  Many students live in room and board.  That’s a good arrangement for all concerned.  That’s what I did for the first couple of years that I attended university.  Boarding one or two students doesn’t seem to cause any problems with the neighbors.  I’ve also heard of a group of students getting together to rent a house.  This would be a house that’s normally rented to a family.  As long as the students were well-behaved, I’m sure the owner would be happy to rent the house to them.  What’s the difference?  Nothing, according to the city’s definition of a family unit.

I’d say that this is a minor problem, and not one that will be solved by tougher regulations.  Maybe that’s why it disappeared so quickly from the news.  Of course, the house that stirred up the complaints had three kitchens.  Should we regulate the number of kitchens?  Some houses have a separate suite with its own kitchen.  How about bathrooms?  How about bedrooms?  Do we really want to regulate all these things?  Doing that sounds way too complicated to me.  I don’t want to live in that sort of neighborhood.

 

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