Rewrite this post

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A controversial proposal to limit how many college students can live together in Providence is getting another hearing Wednesday night, but it’s expected to be significantly scaled back to effect far fewer properties.

Councilwoman Helen Anthony’s original proposal would have restricted more than three college students from living together in any non-owner occupied apartment in multifamily homes across Providence, prompting students to come out in droves to push back.

A top concern was the affordability crisis in the city, which students say requires them to live with several roommates in order to afford housing.

Anthony has now drastically cut back the proposal, which will be heard by the Ordinance Committee at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“After hearing the testimony at the last public hearing, I am narrowing it significantly,” Anthony told 12 News.

The new proposal would only prohibit three or more students from living together in two residential zones in the city, known as R-1 and R-1A, which mainly contain single-family homes.

The city already bans three or more students from living together in single-family homes, so the new proposal would only impact 1,800 “non-conforming” multifamily homes in those districts, Anthony said. She argued the proposal is closing a loophole in the existing law.

A map of the properties impacted by the amended proposal.

The original proposal would have impacted 29,000 homes across the city.

The R-1 and R-1A zones are mostly located on the East Side and north end of the city, near both Brown University and Providence College.

The amended ordinance would also only apply to undergraduate students, a change from the original proposal.

Anthony said her intent is to target landlords who are buying up properties and chopping them up into rooms they rent out to students, limiting available housing for families and young professionals.

“I’m not targeting students,” Anthony said. “But I am looking at the fact that we have residential dwellings that are converted into student dorms.”

But opponents argue the proposal will have the opposite effect. If students can’t live with more than three per unit, they could take up more apartments in the city, not fewer.

“Nothing has changed in the past six months to alleviate the concerns we raised then: this ordinance will not be effective in addressing the problem it is purportedly designed
to address; it will have a particularly adverse impact on lower-income students; it radiates an
antagonism towards a cohort of residents that make up a vibrant and vital part of the City’s environment and character; it ignores the plight that some students will face in light of the city’s well-recognized and severe housing shortage,” said Steven Brown, the executive director of the ACLU of Rhode Island, in written testimony.

He also opposes a measure that could notify colleges if their off-campus students are violating the ordinance.

In addition to college students who testified against the ordinance last fall, landlords also spoke out.

“I have several 4 bedroom apartments and have consistently had demand from 4 students,” wrote Vito Arminio, a Federal Hill landlord, in testimony to the council. “To suddenly restrict this would be a great disservice, making rent more unaffordable for them.”

Others applauded the effort, pointing to noise issues, excessive trash and too many parked cars at properties that used to house much fewer people.

“I watched as a neighbor’s exquisitely restored home was carved into multiple units,” wrote Deborah Moxham in testimony about the ordinance. “Her chandeliered dining room is now a bedroom for one of twelve students, paying $1,300 apiece.”

The debate over limiting college student housing in Providence is not new. The City Council passed an ordinance in 2015 that restricted more than three college students from living in a single-family home that is not owner-occupied.

Supporters of the law said landlords were buying up homes and turning them into students housing, causing noise issues in neighborhoods and limiting housing options for families.

Opponents sued, but the R.I. Supreme Court upheld the ordinance in 2020.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.

. Keep all images. Remove “and links” at the beginning

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *