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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student leaders criticize, organize against ‘no more than four’ ordinance

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Graphic by Nikhil Vadi

College Station’s ‘no more than four’ ordinance restricts more than four unrelated individuals from living in a single-family household together. That ordinance went unenforced until recently, and now, A&M’s Student Government Association is organizing against it.

College Station’s “no more than four” ordinance has been restricting more than four unrelated individuals from living in a single-family household since 1940. 

For weeks, Texas A&M’s Student Government Association, or SGA, Executive Cabinet and Student Senate have been working to inform students about the rule while also speaking with city officials to reform it after enforcement became a priority for College Station. This comes after 180 violations were reported in 2022, compared to 13 in 2021. 

“The City has limited the number of unrelated persons who are permitted to reside as a single-housekeeping unit in a residential district to a maximum of four since the adoption of its first zoning ordinance in 1940,” College Station’s website reads

On Wednesday, Oct. 4, Speaker of the Student Senate Andrew Applewhite called a special session to discuss SGA’s plans to advocate for the student body. At the meeting, three speakers addressed the senate and discussed the economic impact of this ordinance and how the student body should go about advocating against the policy. 

Economics professor Jonathan Meer started by breaking down the economic effects the ordinance will have on the housing market if strict enforcement of the ordinance continues. 

“If you reduce occupancy, there will be the same number of people looking for housing, and there will be fewer available housing slots,” Meer said. “Something’s gotta give, either some people will end up without housing and there are more people looking for housing than there are housing slots, or prices rise until some people drop out of the market and find some alternative way of finding shelter.” 

Meer said reducing the supply of houses in Bryan-College Station would increase prices. 

“When we reduce supply by taking units off of the market, what we should expect is fewer units being rented at a higher price — that is, fewer units with more rent,” Meer said. “One way that people may adapt to these higher prices is by living further away, which increases the amount of traffic you might expect … so more congestion, more potential for accidents [and] greater wasted time.”

According to Rent Data, the fair market rent of houses in Bryan-College Station is more expensive than 89% of the state and 84% of the country. Pew Research data shows this can be difficult for 39% of college students who come from families with a household income in the bottom two income quintiles. 

Political science professor Todd Kent gave the senators advice on how to better advocate for students. He said students need to have facts, good relationships, a clear message and a platform to spread the conversation about no more than four. 

“What you find when you do campaigns of any sort is that people don’t pay attention,” Kent said. “So what I suggest is to have your winning message and keep saying it over and over again.”

Kent said as student leaders, the senate should paint a clear picture for the student body of what they are advocating for. 

“It’s up to us to connect the dots for the public,” Kent said. “It’s so clear to us what we are trying to do when we are advocating for a certain position, but we have to take the person that is listening to us and get them from here to there so they can understand why it’s a bad idea.”  

Kent said there will be challenges when advocating to city officials about what changes need to be made to the ordinance that can serve both students and College Station residents. 

“Public advocacy is hard work, but that’s what makes it valuable,” Kent said. “There is no silver bullet. You’re not gonna find one little message that you can shoot out there and win the day with.” 

Real estate agent Chad Hovde said the heavy enforcement of no more than four only started recently. 

“The ordinance of no more than four unrelated [individuals] has been on the books for decades,” Hovde said. “It was dormant and not particularly enforced during that period of time, and about two years ago it became quite enforced.” 

Hovde said the ordinance makes it harder for students to find housing and could possibly spark a crisis. 

“We have a housing shortage,” Hovde said. “If we further restrict the areas that student housing can go then we’ll create more of a housing crisis.”

At the end of the special session, the senate passed S.R. 76-01, a resolution telling students to comply with city laws in order to uphold Aggie values but also encouraging the city council to consider reform. 

“The Student Senate asks the city of College Station to support rezoning expansions that promote affordable housing benefiting students and other students alike … the Student Senate fully supports the rezoning of areas that already have high concentration of students and over occupancy to middle housing,” the resolution reads. 

The resolution concluded by wanting to keep an open line of communication with city officials and the student body. 

“The Student Senate remains committed to partnership and meaningful relationships between students, administration, local government, and the community at large,” the resolution reads. 

Student Senate Vice President of Municipal Affairs Ben Crockett said reforming no more than four will serve the entire community positively.

“We are in a rental affordability crisis,” Crockett said. “Expanding occupancy to [the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] recommendation of two per bedroom keeps city council electable, rent down and students off the streets.”
This change cannot be completed without the help from and support of the student body, Crockett said. 

“Don’t wait until it impacts you,” Crockett said. “Then, it may be too late to make a difference. Sign petitions, speak to city council, vote …. There’s little difference between the student who can’t speak and the one who never uses their voice.” 

Crockett said advocating for fellow Aggies and all the residents of College Station falls under the Aggie Core Values. 

“How can I contribute?” Crockett said. “With Respect, with Excellence, with Loyalty to my fellow Aggies, with Leadership, with Integrity and with Selfless Service …. Public service is a noble calling and that makes it an Aggie calling. Will you answer the call? Or will you allow your classmates to be fined and forced out of their homes? Live by the Aggie Values.”

Students and senators will be attending the College Station City Council’s Oct. 12 meeting on Thursday to advocate against the ordinance, with attendance open to the public.

“City council needs to see with their own eyes the amount of people whose lives this issue affects, and the only way is to have people show up to this,” Crockett said in a GroupMe message. 

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