Students, city reach compromise in housing debate



By Anna Hawthorne

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Students living together in off-campus housing now have a more certain future for living arrangements.

Student Government has compromised with city officials to allow a maximum of six students per off-campus residence, instead of the four-person limit proposed by the city.

Ryan Smith, SG president, said the new compromise means landlords cannot rent to a house of seven or more unrelated people.

“If we hadn’t reached a compromise it could’ve been worse,” Smith said.  “There’s pressure from different city and neighborhood organizations, which could’ve pushed the number much lower than six and displaced a lot of students.”

The housing debate between students and the city has been ongoing since September when the Lexington Town and Gown Commission began discussing ways to limit the number of people occupying off-campus residences because of complaints from local homeowners.

Third District Councilwoman Diane Lawless said she is pleased with the new compromise.

“I feel very positive about it,” Lawless said.  “I feel it’s fair to everybody and good for the community.”

Smith said SG is pleased with the negotiation as well.  He said most students live in houses occupied by six people or fewer, so the change should not affect a large number of people.

“In an ideal world we’d like to have a higher number, but the houses with ten or more are very few,” Smith said.  “We tried to cover the majority of students living off campus.”

Smith said SG is working with officials to make sure those currently living in houses with six or more people will be able to complete the leases and not be forced out of their homes.

Lawless said students should not worry about ending existing leases.

“Certainly current leases will be honored,” Lawless said.  “Students aren’t going to have to move out of houses overnight.”

If the Work Group approves the compromise at Thursday’s meeting, the proposal will go on to the Planning Commission, which will have 60 days to approve it,  and then to City Council for a final vote.

Smith said the final verdict should be decided by late April or May.