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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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Students, landlords leary of housing ordinance changes to come

While the changes to a 2008 rental ordinance last month will not go into effect until August, disagreements on the matter linger.
The changes to the ordinance in question both enable College Station to enact greater fines on property owners who violate the existing limit of four unrelated residents and to access leases upon request.
Hannah Wimberly, sophomore psychology major and public relations vice president for the Student Government Association, said the enforcement of the new portion of the ordinance would be the real litmus test.
“The follow-through with the ordinance is going to be what’s interesting to see,” Wimberly said. “The four person ordinance has been in effect since 2008, but with the economic collapse, they haven’t had the code enforcement officers to enforce it. Now I’m not condoning students breaking the rules, or breaking the law, but at the same time, if it’s not enforced then why are people going to follow it if it’s going to hurt them?”
For Jeff Claybrook, junior political science major and communications vice president for the Student Government Association, the biggest threats are the possibility of increased living expenses if the code were to be fully enforced and the detrimental effect this could have on the thousands students living off campus.
Claybrook said it only makes sense for students to want more roommates to split costs with, and with five and six bedroom homes being built, it only makes sense to fill the available spaces.
“It just makes sense. If you’re going to build these huge houses with five or six bedrooms, then why not fill up the house with five or six students?” Claybrook said. “I think that if students aren’t allowed to have more than four [unrelated] individuals in a household, then students are going to choose not to live in these houses simply because they can’t afford it.”
Wimberly said that with college as expensive as it is, affordable housing is paramount for students and that some students could be left “homeless” by the new ordinance.
“Anyway you can cut those costs, you should be cutting those costs, and this ordinance is going to raise costs,” Wimberely said. “In the poll that we did, some of the students actually indicated that some of them would be homeless if the registration is enforced.”
Melissa Clinton, president of the Bryan-College Station chapter of the Association of Realtors, said one of the biggest issues for realtors regarding the new ordinance changes is a privacy concern, more specifically the ability of the city to review leases at will.
“The biggest effect that this is having is that they’re requiring the lease be provided for review, and they changed it from wanting a copy of the lease to being able to review it, but that’s still a violation of privacy laws,” Clinton said.
Clinton said students were put at a disadvantage with the changes when students are not really the problem.
“You know they keep saying ‘mini-dorms and students’ and things like that, and it’s not necessarily students that are the problem,” Clinton said. “You can drive down Texas Avenue and see commercial properties that aren’t mowed, that have their grass and weeds waist high. You know that’s the heart of the city, so why don’t they focus on that stuff?”
Wimberly said students were also disadvantaged in the court of public opinion and that the city failed greatly to reconcile their desire for code enforcement with everything the students and the University bring to the city of College Station.
Claybrook said student government polls indicate that students do not support the ordinance changes.
“We’ve been kind of careful at student government to not try and paint the city council as the bad guys,” Claybrook said, “but I think that in all honesty that they did go about this in a cowardly manner.”

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