Help me find occupancy alternative

The current model of maximum occupancy is neither safe nor fair to residents.

Cam Gordon

I appreciated the recent informative article on maximum occupancy, âÄúRenting against the ordinance,âÄù which appeared in the April 11 issue of The Minnesota Daily. While I was disappointed to read about so many people blatantly violating city ordinances, I am glad to see renewed interest in this topic. I have long believed that our current system of regulating occupancy is flawed. That is why I introduced an ordinance to change it, which is now on the Planning DepartmentâÄôs work plan, and why I look forward to helping craft a change that can gain broad-based support in the months ahead. It is unfortunate that this issue appears to have become a wedge that is dividing us and preventing us all âÄî renters, homeowners, landlords, city staff and elected officials âÄî from partnering to ensure that we have safe, healthy housing and quality neighborhoods for everyone. I have been especially concerned since the 2003 fire that took the lives of three University of Minnesota students in Southeast Como that the existing ordinance prevents student renters from getting help from the city to address other issues âÄî even egregious safety and health issues âÄî in the housing they rent. It is my hope that we can reach community consensus on a fairer, more sensible and ultimately more enforceable ordinance to regulate the number of adults who can live in a given dwelling unit. I support an alternative that links the number of adults allowed not only to the underlying zoning of the property but also to the size of the dwelling unit. This could help address both the problem of a large five-bedroom house that the law limits to three unrelated adults, as well as the problem we find when our law allows people to cram an unreasonable, and sometimes unhealthy, number of adults into smaller units. While not mentioned in the article, we have seen this issue several times over the last few years in the University area when developers have brought forward projects on parcels zoned for high density (R4 and up). In these proposals, not only can the developer legally construct four or more dwelling units, but each unit can house five unrelated adults. This means that the law allows 20 adult renters in one small four-plex, for example. This problem is also seen when a studio or one-bedroom apartment can legally house five unrelated adults, no matter how unrealistic, provided it is zoned R4 or R5. Too often I think we assume our maximum occupancy rules are helping us address concerns related to safety, parking and cars, parties and loud neighbors, run-down and deteriorating properties or the desire to keep a healthy balance of ownership and rental in our neighborhoods. While these are very important issues that I have and will continue to work on, they have little or nothing to do with the relation of the people who live in our neighborhoods. For more on what I have been doing to address these problems, please see my blog at http://secondward.blogspot.com. I believe that if we are willing to listen to and understand each othersâÄô points of view, we can create a fairer, smarter, more enforceable way to regulate maximum occupancy while also better addressing legitimate safety, livability and property value concerns. For those who are interested in exploring alternatives, I encourage you to contact me and I would be delighted to share the research my office has done so far. You may also want to check out the Columbus, Ohio, âÄúminimum space requirementsâÄù approach at http://library.municode.com/HTML/16219/level3/T45_AV_C4541.html. Like Minneapolis, Columbus is home to a major university but doesnâÄôt require renters, inspectors or landlords to worry about DNA, adoption papers or marriage certificates. The current maximum occupancy ordinance is not working well for anyone. Surely, there is an alternative that can work better for all. I welcome you to help me find it. Cam Gordon, Minneapolis Ward 2 city councilman