ASCSU promotes U+2 survey, campaigns for alternative Me+3

Stuart Smith

Nota del Editor: El Collegian está empezando una sección para nuestros lectores que hablan Español. Articulos en Español va a estar en línea y en la impresión. Encontrar la versión en Español aqui. Traducido por Cinthia Avitia

Love it, hate it, or flat ignore it, U+2 is a fact of life in Fort Collins. 

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The executive branch of the Associated Students of Colorado State University is ramping up their campaign to replace Fort Collins’ U+2 law with one that’s been discussed for years: Me+3.

U+2 is the colloquial name of Fort Collins’ current housing ordinance that prevents more than three unrelated persons from living in a single residence. The proposed Me+3 would up this limit to four persons.

Since at least the Sydoriak administration in 2015, the ASCSU executive branch has worked to replace or amend U+2. Last year, the ASCSU Senate approved $10,000 from the Senate discretionary fund to help fund a survey, with additional monetary support from CSU’s Administration.

At the end of last year, the Senate body also approved $30,000 for Me+3 campaigning for the executive branch. When the surveys came out, ASCSU spent $2,700 for a plane to carry a banner about the survey, telling students to check their mail.

Student body President Tristan Syron said the rationale behind the allocated funds for taking on U+2 reform was that it’s a student issue, one his campaign emphasized last spring. 

“The problem is, there hasn’t just been one person to say ‘this is an issue, this has been an issue for a while, let’s tackle it,’” Syron said. “If the student body wants this done and they’re paying this fee, we’re finally going to use it on something that they want and put all our forces on it.”

The survey went out in early September, with a submission period of around six weeks. One question asked residents to rate their neighborhood’s peace and quiet, lawn and house maintenance and sense of community, while another asked residents to rate their support of U+2, otherwise known as the Occupancy Ordinance, with the options of “support,” “neutral,” “oppose” and “no opinion.”

Yuval Rosenthal, ASCSU’s director of community affairs, said originally, the company conducting the survey, Corona Insights, was going to send the survey out during summer, but ASCSU convinced them to hold off until fall. Corona Insights was also contracted by the City to conduct U+2 surveys for several years in the mid-late 2000s.

The problem is, there hasn’t just been one person to say ‘this is an issue, this has been an issue for a while, let’s tackle it. If the student body wants this done and they’re paying this fee, we’re finally going to use it on something that they want and put all our forces on it.” Tristan Syron, Associated Students of Colorado State University President.

“We strongly opposed (a summer release) due to the fact that students weren’t here,” Rosenthal said. “It would be senseless to send out surveys to areas around campus… when students weren’t even there.”

ASCSU also added a question to the survey asking about unused bedrooms in Fort Collins residences. Rosenthal said this addition was intended to provide a statistical sample of the population, with the aim of figuring out how underutilized, or inefficient, housing is in Fort Collins due to U+2. 

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“What is the opportunity cost (here)?” Rosenthal said. “What are we losing in terms of economic growth or net GDP that could be made out of rent?”

The survey also added an incentive program for residents to fill out and return it, with potential prizes of one of two $500 grand prizes or one of 10 separate $100 prizes, with the funding coming from ASCSU.

Hannah Taylor, ASCSU deputy director of governmental affairs, said the goal of this campaign is to raise awareness about the survey rather than pushing a policy.

“We’re not trying to advocate against U+2,” Taylor said. “We’re not trying to sway what people think about it. … we’re not saying, ‘Hey, this is what you should vote on.’ We’re saying, ‘Make sure you fill it out.’”

In order to do this, ASCSU members started canvassing in neighborhoods around the University.

So far there have been two of those canvassing events, where volunteers from ASCSU went out to inform Fort Collins residents of the survey.

Syron said $12,000 has been spent in total, with about $3,000 of that going towards marketing for the campaign and advertising for the survey, including for “swag” such as T-shirts, stickers and pins. 

“We’ve got six weeks of Collegian ads (and) posters set up all over town,” said Blake Alfred, ASCSU director of marketing. “I have teams of people that put stickers on light poles around Old Town.”

Another part of the campaign involves visiting student organizations to talk about the survey, Alfred said.

For example, campaigners went to the chapter meetings of various fraternities and sororities the night of Monday, Oct. 8 to discuss the campaign, as well as hand out booklets and stickers.

“Typically, a lot of people don’t seem interested in the local government and local politics,” Taylor said. “But students seem to be really interested in this because they see how they’re directly impacted by it.”

In particular, Rosenthal said, ASCSU is concerned with the economic impact U+2 has on students, and are arguing that a Me+3 should alleviate some of that financial burden without harming the quality of Fort Collins’ neighborhoods.

“A lot of people are breaking (the law) and the fact that it’s in place is making things harder and putting a bigger financial burden on underrepresented or low-income groups and populations, such as students,” Rosenthal said.

ASCSU Vice President Kevin Sullivan said students aren’t the only ones affected by U+2, citing single mothers, single fathers and grad students following their significant others.

“You got to look at other people that can’t afford full housing,” Sullivan said.

In looking to the future, Rosenthal said Fort Collins is very willing to work with the student government on the issue of U+2, and the results of the survey will be taken into consideration by the Fort Collins City Council.

Rosenthal said the Me+3 movement is also aiming to make rent prices more affordable without instating a formal rent cap, which is something that goes beyond just a student or CSU impact.

“The response we’ve been getting is that the survey will yield data that must be looked at,” Rosenthal said. “They seem very receptive to our ideas, but said they want to rely on the data… I think overall, the City Council, the city manager, the mayor they all want what’s best for the City.”

Results for the survey will be released in January, Rosenthal said, at which point the City will start deciding their next course of action for the ordinance. 

Stuart Smith can be reached news@collegian.com or on Twitter @stuartsmithnews.