As a sophomore at the College of William and Mary, I have already experienced the housing lottery scramble that occurs each year during the spring semester. Luckily, I was not bumped, but I know many rising sophomores and juniors who were. So, where are these students supposed to live? The simple answer is off campus — they just need to find an apartment or house to rent, which sounds easy enough. However, simply living in Williamsburg creates a roadblock for many students of the College.
There’s no getting around the fact that there is not enough on-campus housing for all students at the College. This probably isn’t going to change any time soon, however, so the more important issue is how to deal with the problems of living off campus. The main problem when students attempt to rent housing off campus is the dreaded three-person rule, which states that only up to three non-related people can live in a single-family home in Williamsburg.
Recently, the Williamsburg City Council approved allowing exceptions to this rule. Landlords renting houses that meet certain criteria can apply to raise the limit to four unrelated people. I think this is a great step, but it’s also a small one. Only 31 houses and 18 apartments at the time of the resolution fit these requirements, and no one knows how many will actually be approved.
While I strongly disagree with this ordinance, I can understand Williamsburg residents’ concerns. They mention worries of excessive cars, their neighborhoods’ preservation and building codes’ violations.. On the other hand, I think there is overwhelming evidence proving that more students should be allowed to live in residential areas.
Whether or not residents love college students, they make up a large percentage of the Williamsburg population. In addition, they are a huge factor in local businesses’ revenues — think about how many times you’ve eaten at the Cheese Shop, visited New Town or gone to Movie Tavern. Without student business, Williamsburg would suffer. Accordingly, students should be allowed to utilize houses for rent in the Williamsburg area. With on-campus housing already at a premium, students are understandably desperate to find an apartment or house to rent. Are one or two extra people in a house really going to ruin a neighborhood? At home, my family of six lives all in one house. I’m sure we get loud enough to annoy my neighbors sometimes, and we have many cars parked around the house. Would a house of four or five college students be that much worse?
I understand why the residents of Williamsburg would not appreciate having to live next to a dorm-like environment with tons of college students packed into one house. Obviously, there must be limits, but why not limit the number of residents to the number of bedrooms in a house? And, for that matter, shouldn’t two people be able to share a room? I find it ironic how packed in students are in the College dorms, with most people having roommates or even overcrowds, while bedrooms sit empty in Williamsburg housing. I applaud the city council for opening up to the possibility of four-person housing, but I hope the rules continue to relax. Personally, I really love living in Williamsburg, and I hope the residents here will understand the asset they have in student consumers and will consider allowing students more access to housing.