After decades of students at Colorado State University complaining about the Fort Collins "You + Two" ordinance, the City of Fort Collins is slated to move forward with making adjustments to its housing occupancy laws. Although students and the public failed to gather enough signatures to take the measure to the voters, the city council members decided to address the concerns themselves.
"We have a housing crisis," Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt said. "If we think this is just a young person's issue, that is a false framing of the issue. It is community-wide."
Arndt said the council, which she has a vote on, elected to undertake the revision of the law.
As it stands, the law limits the number of unrelated individuals living in one household to three. So, if someone is renting a home that has five bedrooms, the city's law still says only three unrelated individuals can occupy that home.
While that law may have been intended to prevent overcrowding of homes among college students while preserving neighborhoods, Arndt said it ultimately impacted many more residents.
"We have people that are coming to me that are vet techs, teachers, in the medical profession that are saying three roommates is reasonable," Arndt said.
Arndt said one estimate suggested there were at least 15,000 vacant bedrooms in Fort Collins. While some of that is by choice of the homeowner, other rooms are sitting vacant due to the occupancy laws.
In the same breath, it is widely known that many residents in Fort Collins knowingly violate the law as a way to house their peers while also cutting down on the cost of living. Some have even anonymously taken CBS News Colorado into their homes that were out of compliance and showed how they could safely and reasonably house more than three people in some homes.
The council has not determined what their course of action will be yet.
"There are all sorts of possibilities," Arndt said.
Some have suggested zoning the city and allowing larger occupancy numbers depending on zone. Others have suggested setting the limits based on the square footage of the home.
"The size of the house should be adequate to house the people who would be in it. But I don't think that should be the determining variable," Arndt said.
Arndt says the resolution for now could be as simple as increasing the limitation to four unrelated people per household instead of three.
"That might be the incremental step that is good for Fort Collins," Arndt suggested.
The council recently updated the public nuisance ordinance, which Arndt said may help address some of the concerns the "You + Two" law attempts to address. She said the council will make sure to continue taking public input before making their decision by July 2024.
"We are a community of abundance, and right now, there are people in need. We need to sit together as a community and see how we meet those needs," Arndt said.
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