Today, I gave notice of intent to my colleagues and constituents of an ordinance change I plan to make regarding Maximum Occupancy.
My goal is threefold:
1) to make maximum occupancy regulations fairer, by treating all legal adults the same, regardless of their “relatedness;”
2) to address discrepancies between the zoning and housing safety codes; and
3) to tie the number of occupants in a dwelling unit to the size of the unit.
My current plan (which is, of course, open to change) will establish a uniform citywide cap of five legal adults per dwelling unit. It will then establish lower occupancy limits based on the square footage of individual units (this will help take away the drive to carve up common space into bedrooms – such actions would not increase the occupancy of a unit), with each legal adult requiring a certain number of square feet. The lowest maximum occupancy of any unit will be 2.
In some cases, this change will lead to an increase in occupancy of a given unit. In many cases, the occupancy limit will remain the same, and in some cases it will even be reduced. Additionally, my ordinance change will require that landlords disclose to renters the maximum occupancy of each unit and keep a form signed by tenants on file stating that tenants have received this information. I also plan to prohibit property owners from increasing the occupancy of a unit by adding square footage.
I realize that this will likely be a contentious issue, and that some residents do not believe that the existing regulations should change. I disagree. I continue to believe, as I repeatedly and very publicly stated during the 2005 campaign, that for much of the community-building that Southeast residents want to see to happen, we need buy-in from the student community. In order to improve rental housing stock, we need the cooperation of the students living in it.
I believe that one way to get this sort of cooperation is to show students that they are being treated not as interlopers, second-class citizens, or problems to be solved. Instead, we should be trying whenever possible to extend to student renters the same rights and expectations we give homeowners. This is why I hired interns to put out the U Student Welcome Packet last fall, and why I plan to do it again.
I also believe that basing occupancy limits on relatedness is just not right. I do not believe that the City has the expertise or moral authority to determine what sorts of households are 'families' and what sorts are not.
I am deeply committed to improving the quality of life in University-area neighborhoods. It's why I've spent so much time and effort on initiatives designed to help U-area neighborhoods specifically. So far in my term, I have supported or instigated the following initiatives:
- making rental licenses revocable for non-payment of judgments to past tenants
- making rental licenses revocable for unpermitted work
- requiring an inspection before a dwelling unit converted from homeownership to rental can be rented, along with a hefty $1,000 fee to help disincentivize conversion
- the Welcome Packet mentioned above
- hiring interns to help organize neighborhood events
- the University District Partnership Alliance, whose Demonstration Project subcommittee I lead, which has potential to stop and even reverse the trend towards coversion to rental
- revoking many more rental licenses citywide than the previous Council
- finishing former CM Paul Zerby's work on the Noisy and Unruly Assembly ordinance
I see fixing the maximum occupancy ordinance as one of many necessary steps to improve quality of life for all residents of University-area neighborhoods.