NARRAGANSETT, R.I (WPRI) — The Narragansett Town Council is expected to hold a special public hearing Wednesday for community members to weigh-in on a controversial local ordinance that would limit how many college students could live in off-campus homes.
The so-called “three-student” ordinance would cap the number of students allowed to live together to three people per single-family home in Narragansett. Debate surrounding this issue has long created a rift between University of Rhode Island students who want to live off campus, and full-time residents who argue the the students pack into single-family homes and disrupt quality of life.
“We have a lot of single-family neighborhoods in this town that, for a lack of a better word, have turned into mini hotels and dormitories.” said Steven Ferrandi, a member of the Eastward Look Home Owners Association, who supports the proposed ordinance.
Of 231 off-campus incidents involving the police during the 2020-21 school year, 162 happened in Narragansett, according to URI. And 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.
The council is now taking another shot and will allow for public testimony on Wednesday.
“We feel with the three-students brings a little balance back into our neighborhoods — it turns them back into single family properties,” Ferrandi added. “It doesn’t state that you can’t have any student rentals or other rentals in town.”
Gunnar Rinkel, a URI senior, disagrees, arguing the ordinance would unfairly hurt college students who want to live off-campus while earning their degrees. And the proposal, he added, is already challenging some students’ ability to find housing for the upcoming school year.
“I know a lot of people that are scrambling to find houses now because of the situation,” Rinkel said.
The senior said he empathized with some of the frustration raised by community members, but he argues the ordinance isn’t a good solution.
“I understand where they are coming from and why they might want to do it, but URI is such a huge part of the town of Kingston and people have been living off campus for years there is not a lot of housing on campus,” he said.