Councilor Ross submitted the petition to change the definition of a "family" under the city's Zoning Code that would exclude groups of "five or more students enrolled at or attending a post-secondary educational institution" from being able to live together in a single housing unit. The city's previous definition of "family" was overruled by a 2003 court decision and subsequent consent decree, which meant that landlords could rent to larger groups of students during the past five years than previously allowed.
The Boston City Council has already unanimously approved Councilor Ross's petition. The next and final step for approval will be an appearance before the city's Zoning Board on March 12th. Councilor Ross said that opponents to his proposal -- I'm guessing that these include the Small Property Owners of America -- have put out the call to appear in large numbers at the upcoming Zoning Board meeting.
The most surprising detail was that many of the city's institutions of higher education have come out in favor of his proposal. After the event, Councilor Ross stated Northeastern University, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Massachusetts College of Art, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and Suffolk University were all backing his proposal. He also noted that several other prominent institutions were considering supporting the proposal, including Simmons College, Boston University, and Boston College.
Councilor Ross also noted that the Greater Boston Legal Services, who had brought the court challenge to the previous definition of a "family" under the Zoning Code, were now supporting Ross's petition.
The Allston-Brighton TAB already filed their story about how the BRA Board is soon to vote on the issue. I think they've got a day or two to add to their story before deadline... Their story provides interesting background from last week's meeting of the Allston Civic Association (ACA):
Many other cities and towns regulate the number of occupants a housing unit may have.At the Green Gathering, Councilor Ross noted that Newton had similar problems with over-crowded, off-campus student housing and pass an ordinance much like Ross's proposal. The Newton ordinance, he said, was successfully defended in court.
The TAB article continued:
Ross said some neighborhoods, including Brighton, have an overabundance of students. Students will move to areas with more space for them as a result of the proposal.The meeting of the Zoning Board will be on March 12, 2008, at 9:00 am, in Room 900 on the 9th Floor of Boston's City Hall.
Enforcement of the law would be complaint-driven; for example, if a neighbor reports a lot of occupants in a house with nightly parties to the Inspectional Services Department.
Ross said 99 percent of the people who support the proposal are from the community, whereas 99 percent of those who oppose it work in real estate. The ACA supports it.
A-B City Councilor Mark Ciommo said, “A-B is unique because we have so many students living off-campus, and I believe this amendment would help reduce problems with overcrowding and quality of life in these neighborhoods.” He also said it would alleviate problems associated with absentee landlords.