U+2 survey results reveal public opinion on ordinance

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

The results of the U+2 survey have been released and are revealing public belief on it’s effect on Fort Collins neighborhoods

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A study on the effects of U+2 on Fort Collins housing has found that two-thirds of occupancy violation complaints in 2017 were unfounded, and more than three-quarters of residents say it has “no significant” effect on their neighborhood.

“You have a city that a lot of people think ‘Oh I have bad neighborhood quality, it’s because (college students are) over-occupying,’” said Tristan Syron, Associated Students of Colorado State University president. “Well two-thirds of the time, they’re not over-occupying, it’s a false correlation.”

U+2 is a city ordinance in Fort Collins that prevents more than three unrelated people from living in the same residence. Certain areas in the city can request an exemption from the law, but the majority of the city is restricted.

The study also found that rental prices have risen dramatically over the past years, with the average rent in Fort Collins rising 56 percent from 2009 to 2018. This is higher than the increase in similar metro areas in Colorado.

Despite this, a plurality (42 percent) of people surveyed support the ordinance. Thirty-one percent were neutral to the ordinance, 24 percent were opposed to it and 3 percent had no opinion.

College students living in homes made up the largest group of people opposing U+2, with 44 percent reporting they were against it.

But 44 percent was lower than Syron was expecting.

“It’s a little low, and we wanted it to be higher,” Syron said. “Are we disappointed? No, because… everything’s moving in the right direction.”

Campus West, the area of Fort Collins most densely populated with college students, also was the most opposed to it with 26 percent. Those surveyed east of campus reported the second highest opposition, with 25 percent, and 23 percent of the rest of Fort Collins reported opposing the ordinance.

The study, conducted by Denver-based Corona Insights and partially funded with student fees through ASCSU, was commissioned by the City of Fort Collins in 2017 to gain insight on how to move forward with the law.

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ASCSU is pushing to replace U+2 with Me+3, which would allow four unrelated persons in a household. The study was a follow-up to similar studies in 2005 and 2009 and used largely the same methods.

One of ASCSU’s arguments against the ordinance is that it affects more than college students, and the study results back that up. It found that only 47 percent of violators were estimated to be college students. Another 42 percent is estimated to be adults who are not college students, with another 10 percent estimated to be school-aged minors between pre-K and 12th grade.

In a statement to The Collegian, ASCSU Director of Community Affairs Yuval Rosenthal said the study reinforced their hypotheses about U+2.

Rosenthal has been pushing for U+2 changes all year and was instrumental in ASCSU’s efforts around distribution and awareness of the survey.

“It has proved that the city’s housing supply is failing to meet growing demand, which could be resolved by allowing more residents per household,” he wrote.

Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell is “incredibly receptive” to changes to the ordinance, Syron said.

“He’s basically, in my opinion, articulated this ‘Me+3’ style,” Syron said.

At a City Council work session last week, Troxell responded to the results of the survey.

“There’s this balance between trying to find better utilization of our housing stock at the same time improving neighborhoods, and I don’t think we’ve taken that approach to date,” Troxell said.

Moving forward, ASCSU will develop a campaign to make students and Fort Collins residents aware of the results of the survey and their hope to replace it with Me+3, said ASCSU Director of Marketing Strategy Blake Alfred.

“When the stadium went up, the University held public forums to discuss information with concerned citizens,” Alfred told The Collegian. “We’d like to set up some of those, with the addition to more local messaging.”

Tentative parts of that plan include canvassing around campus and placing ads around town at bus stops.

“At the end of the day- this change is good for the city,” Alfred wrote. “Now we have the obligation of telling them why and how.”

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