RI ACLU Files Suit Against Prov Ordinance Prohibiting 3+ College Students Living Together

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


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ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown

The ACLU of Rhode Island has filed a suit against the City of Providence challenging a recently enacted city ordinance that prohibits more than three "college students" from living together in certain part of the city.

Read a Copy of the Lawsuit Here

"There is absolutely no reason to believe that restricting the number of student tenants in a small subset of available rental housing (i.e., single-family homes) will make the affected neighborhoods any quieter, safer or cleaner. On the contrary, the ordinance is an unconstitutional intrusion into the rights of college and graduate students to choose with whom they wish to live, and the rights of property owners to rent their homes to tenants of their choice," the lawsuit claims.

Filing the Lawsuit

The suit was filed on behalf of four Johnson & Wales undergraduate students living in a house in Elmhurst section of Providence. The City ordinance, put into action in September, makes his arrangement illegal by prohibiting more than three "college students" from living together in a non-owner occupied single family home in certain residential areas.

“The ordinance’s unfair stigmatization of Providence’s students is contrary to the City’s reputation as a welcome host to the local colleges and universities. More vigorous enforcement of laws already on the books, along with increased collaboration with the educational institutions, would be a more productive method to deal with the legitimate concerns that some residents have raised," said ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown.

Rules Already in Place

The suit notes that there are already multiple ordinances in place to address noise, parties, traffic and other nuisances.

“The City and State already have laws in place that regulate overcrowding, loud parties and underage drinking. This ordinance goes too far by attempting to legislate who can live together in the same house. Ultimately, it will have its most significant impact on students from low-income and middle-income families who can’t afford to cover a larger share of the rent in a single-family home," said Attorney Jeffrey Levy.

What the Lawsuit is Seeking

The lawsuit seeks to halt all enforcement of the ordinance and have it declared unconstitutional.


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