The Rhode Island Superior Court on Monday upheld an amendment to the Providence zoning ordinance that limits student housing in residential neighborhoods. In 2015, City Council Majority Whip, Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), introduced an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance that placed a limit on the number of students that could live in a non-owner occupied single-family home. The amendment was passed by the Council, signed by the Mayor and later challenged in court. The Plaintiffs who brought the suit were a landlord and several tenants who claimed the law violated their constitutional rights. The Court, in a 20-page decision, rejected the Plaintiffs’ claim that the ordinance discriminated against college students in violation of article 1, section 2 of the R.I. Constitution.
“I am pleased that the Superior Court upheld the City ordinance,” said Ryan. “This ordinance is about preserving the single-family housing stock and about public safety. Single-family homes were not intended by zoning law to be used as mini-dorms. In a city where individuals and families are finding it harder and harder to find safe and affordable homes, it is imperative that we as elected officials work to preserve our housing stock and to protect the residential character of our neighborhoods.”
The ordinance states that in R-1 and R-1A zones, a single-family dwelling, which is not owner-occupied, may not be occupied by more than three college students. A college student is defined as an individual enrolled as an undergraduate or graduate student at any university or college who commutes to campus.
Ryan introduced the legislation in response to concerns from residents in the Elmhurst and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods she represents, who were frustrated that single-family homes were being purchased by investors and rented to numerous college students. Ryan, whose ward borders the Providence College campus, said “off-campus student housing creates a host of challenges for residents in our City’s neighborhoods. Moreover, the Court held that limiting population density, congestion, noise, and traffic are all valid governmental concerns. This ordinance will help to ensure that our neighborhoods remain safe and will preserve the quality of life for all residents.”