Landlords hope to avoid stricter student resident policy

By Bailey Johnson

Members of the University Area Housing Association met with Student Government officers last night to discuss living regulations that could significantly change the make-up of neighborhoods surrounding UK.

The regulations are currently in effect at Pennsylvania State University. Two UK employees, Assistant Vice President of Community Engagement Lisa Higgins-Hord and Vice President of Facilities Management Bob Wiseman, and Lexington Fayette Urban County Councilman David Stevens visited the university earlier this year to observe and discuss policies concerning off-campus student housing.

Implemented in 1997, Penn State’s regulations state that only three non-related students can live in an off-campus house at a time and that no student residential unit can exist within approximately 150 to 200 square feet of another student home.

The regulations also require students to obtain permits to occupy off-campus houses and state that student homes must have a minimum of 1,500 square footage.

Stevens is interested in looking into similar regulations for the UK community, Wiseman said, and the university has not endorsed a change of regulations.

The dynamics of Penn State and UK are vastly different, Wiseman said, so a new set of implications would arise from the regulations if they were applied in Lexington.

“What you are dealing with is the community,” Wiseman said. “We need to understand (the regulations) more than we do now.”

The housing association, made up of landlords who own property around UK, hopes that with collaboration from Lexington landlords and UK students it can stop Lexington from applying similar regulations, which would render about 75 percent of student houses surrounding campus ineligible for student occupation, said Andy McIntire, UAHA member and property owner.

The decrease in available housing would lead to higher rent prices and would effectively drive the student population into other Lexington neighborhoods, McIntire said.

“We think that there has got to be a better way than that,” he said. “(The regulations) would force students out into other neighborhoods farther away from campus, increasing the possibility of conflict with other neighbors. We don’t believe this discrimination should be something we are teaching at the university.”

Residents of neighborhoods surrounding UK have expressed concern with student behavior, particularly after the University of Louisville football game. A house was condemned and a couch was burned outside after late-night partying.

UAHA Vice President Robert Hodges said he believes the problem stems from a lack of communication between the city, landlords and their tenants.

“We have a long-term need to have interactive communications between all members of the neighborhoods,” Hodges said. “The vast majority of students are very good neighbors. The way to solve problems is to work together.”

Hodges also said that police, not property owners, should play a bigger role in regulating incidents.

“When we are talking about police protection, they aren’t protecting the students,” he said. “The students are not treated as legit members of our community.”

Several solutions were proposed during the course of the meeting, including contacting council members concerning the issue, educating property owners and increasing communication with students. The UAHA also mentioned the development of its University Preferred Housing plan.

Craig Hardin, treasurer and former president of the UAHA, said the plan involves implementing additional standards to original codes, including adding lighting off campus, yard maintenance and deadbolt locks on bedrooms and front doors.

“We would do more than minimum codes voluntarily in order to assure safe, clean, decent housing around the university,” Hardin said.

One of the main topics of discussion concerned involving students with the process and educating them about regulations for off-campus housing. SG President Nick Phelps, one of three student government representatives in attendance, said students must take a stand and get involved with the community discussion.

“Once they are aware of what’s going on, I think the key for students is to find out what their responsibility is and the problem and to also find out their responsibility in fixing it,” Phelps said. “Then I think what needs to be done will be clearly identified, and we will make it happen.”