City ordinance discourages student renters

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November 4, 2008

12:27 AM

It’s barely November, but an e-mail about spring registration and hearing about my roommates’ plans to study abroad this summer have made my rooming situation for next year seem scarily close. My hall bathroom, with its overflowing trash can and temperamental showerheads, has already gotten old, and living in an overcrowd has made personal space a thing of the past. Living off-campus is an idea with increasing appeal.

House parties and an escape from Caf food also make off-campus living an exciting thought. However, the recent coverage of the three-person housing rule has thrown a kink in what seemed to be a perfect plan. I always considered the three-person rule an example of outdated and out-of-touch town-gown relations, but not one that particularly pertained to my life. But between my dad’s horror stories about the economy and slightly desperate pleas to my friends to not all study abroad in the same semester, having to share a house with only two other people may place my perfect plan out of reach.

I still have several months, but the pace of change in Williamsburg makes me worried about how effective talks about amending the three-person rule will really be. The Flat Hat’s Oct. 28 article “City May Amend 3-person Ordinance” noted that the proposal to amend the rule was tentative, and “months from being voted on by the City Council, if ever.” Though the Student Assembly and the City Council have been talking for weeks, this is the first I’ve heard of a substantive plan to change the ordinance, and several questions still come to mind.

SA President Valerie Hopkins ’09 said that “ideally, we’d like to have the number of bedrooms, plus one, but we understand that we’re going to have to compromise.” Though admittedly better than the three-person rule, allowing four to a house still excludes larger groups of students who may have tried to get a block on campus, or those attempting to rent a bigger home. This makes renting a house near campus more problematic than finding apartments farther away, even tough being nearby would be convenient and keep students close to the College community.

In addition, several of my friends living off-campus this year have gloated that they’re actually paying less than they would on-campus. However, the gloomy economy and fluctuating gas prices make splitting rent a necessity. Allowing only three people to live in a four-bedroom home makes no sense for the owner or for the renters.

Who are we kidding, anyway? Students have and will continue to violate the three-person rule as long as the rule puts them at a disadvantage. Recognizing and perhaps working such a realization into the discussion would make the amendment both more viable and more likely to ease the relationship between the College and the city.

I, for one, have already experienced the spectrum of trauma living in campus housing can cause. From getting bumped at the end of last year and scrambling to find an alternative to camping out in the Sunken Garden for nine months, to watching in slight horror as my room in the Bryan Complex gradually flooded earlier this year, living in the dorms can be frustrating and anything but homey. I wouldn’t mind an actual bedroom, a real kitchen or a way to avoid awkward conversations among my friends about who will live with whom next year.

An amendment to the three-person rule would open a more realistic discussion between Williamsburg and the students who call it home.

Alexa McClanahan is a sophomore at the College.

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