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Town council to revisit roommate limit

With foreseeable housing shortage, some are hoping to expand off-campus options

By Domenica Ghanem
On February 10, 2014

Mansfield town council members plan to revisit a controversial housing ordinance affecting University of Connecticut students after a discussion during Monday's council meeting raised questions.
The ordinance, a housing restriction that limits the number of unrelated individuals who can rent in a dwelling to three, has been a point of contention between UConn students living off-campus and the town of Mansfield for some time. Violators of the ordinance are cited for "blight."
During public comment, a Mansfield resident asked Deputy Mayor Paul Shapiro to clarify his definition of blight - Shapiro mentioned at a previous meeting that his goal was to reduce "blight."
Shapiro responded with an example of UConn trying to act as a landlord and in doing so "sucked everything it could get (into its property) without concern for the community."
Shapiro said when the university "tries to do things that are removed from its educational mission, such as run a commercial block," it creates problems.
Councilwoman Betty Wassmundt asked for clarification.
Shapiro responded by saying he had heard many concerns during his campaign for councilman about houses with significant numbers of occupants damaging the quality of life for the residents of those neighborhoods.
However, some UConn student leaders believe the restrictions are increasing costs for students.
"With an increase of demand for off-campus housing, the supply of housing remains the same and limiting the number of people who can rent in one house increases the cost of renting," Mark Sargent, chair of the external affairs committee of the Undergraduate Student Government at UConn.
Sargent added that treating related and unrelated household members differently in the eyes of town law creates an unfair discrepancy.
But Sargent's concerns about town efforts to limit off-campus housing for students are not new. In 2010, the town council considered an ordinance to limit parking in town, which would have negatively affected students living off campus. Then-USG President Thomas Haggerty called the town's actions "a transparent attempt to reduce student housing."
With UConn foreseeing on-campus housing shortages in the coming years, the issue will become all the more relevant in the coming months. As a result, the Mansfield Town Council plans to continue discussion of the issue with members of the UConn community in future meetings.

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