Narragansett approves limiting off-campus housing around URI

South County

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — After several hours of debating, the Narragansett Town Council approved a controversial ordinance limiting the number of college students living at off-campus homes.

Just after 1 a.m. Thursday, the council voted 3-2 approving the so-called “three-student” ordinance, which caps the number of students allowed to live together to three people per single-family home in Narragansett.

Over nearly seven hours Wednesday night, landlords, neighbors, students, and councilors gave their thoughts on the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance has created a rift between University of Rhode Island students and year-round residents for years.

The Town Council passed an earlier version of the three-student ordinance a year ago this month, but it was later struck down in court after a judge determined a required public hearing on the issue was cut short.

During the meeting, some argue the college crowd is noisy and disruptive and doesn’t mesh well with a family neighborhood. But students say the ordinance would drastically change housing options and make rent unaffordable.

“It’s not the town’s responsibility to house URI students,” one resident told the Town Council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Of 231 off-campus incidents involving the police during the 2020-21 school year, 162 happened in Narragansett, according to URI.

Incoming URI senior Maren Drake argued that if the ordinance passes, not only will it limit the number of nearby housing options for students, rent may also become unaffordable.

“One of the reasons people move off campus is because it’s actually cheaper than living in a residence hall at the end of the day,” she explained. “But if you start charging $800 plus rent to live in what should have been an eight person house for three people, it’s not going to be worth it.”

One landlord claimed the ordinance would also create new demand for housing in the area since more students will be looking for a place to live.

That increased housing demand was also brought up by several neighbors, who said they’d prefer to see families move into those properties.

“A new crowd comes in every September,” one resident said.

This was a first reading of the issue and typically a second reading and another vote would be needed before the new ordinance becomes official.

Once official, it would only impact leases moving forward and would not impact any that have already been signed.

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