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Opinion: U+2 pilot program is a wasteful intrusion into citizens’ lives

Everybody knows Fort Collins is only going to continue to grow, so why try to fight it with wasteful spending? 

Fort Collins is set to begin implementation of a U+2 Pilot program in 2016, a program designed to ramp up enforcement of the city’s U+2 housing policy in the Avery Park neighborhood (if you’re unfamiliar, the Avery Park region is defined in the program as the area between Taft Hill and Shields streets, bordered by Prospect and Elizabeth roads).

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Under this program, the city will begin actively policing residences for compliance with the occupancy rules, regardless of whether the properties have received complaints from neighbors or not. This is a step up from the city’s current level of enforcement, in which properties are generally only monitored for u+2 compliance in response to complaints filed by other residents.

Regardless of your opinion on the U+2 ordinance, this ramp-up in the city’s policing of occupancy rules stands to be an unnecessarily aggressive move that is going to waste taxpayer money on a issue that doesn’t need additional enforcement. As the editorial board of the Coloradoan pointed out in its similar dismissal of this program, the city’s current enforcement policies surrounding occupancy limits have already been proven to be effective, noting that noise complaints in the Campus West area dropped 6 percent between 2013 and 2014 without a policy of active enforcement being used.

Furthermore, this policy stands to strengthen the argument that CSU students are being unfairly targeted by city policy. While some may disagree that the outdated nature of the U+2 ordinance itself targets students, even supporters of the policy must agree that escalating enforcement to prosecute all over-occupied properties regardless of how their residents behave is excessive and more than a little unfair to students looking to afford shelter in our rapidly-rising housing market. Frankly, citizens should be allowed to occupy a residence in as large of numbers as they wish if they can comply with health codes and do so without raising complaints from other members of the community. This pilot program is needless government intrusion into the private lives of citizens, and this approach stands to be detrimental to community relations and the housing market as our city expands.

Let’s be honest; Fort Collins is going to continue growing at a rapid rate, and while the city should be commended for pursuing policy that protects the makeup of local neighborhoods, their efforts are misguided in that they persecute a segment of the community and contribute to the inflation of housing prices. As I noted in a prior column, Fort Collins’ property values have exploded along with the population, as the local population has increased 8 percent over the past four years, with home prices increasing 15 percent just last year. The makeup of Fort Collins is changing rapidly regardless of what city leaders do, and their policies need to reflect this understanding.

The housing market will eventually adapt to reflect the rapid rise in demand and curb some of the friction surrounding over-occupancy in some properties, but it is going to take time and patience from citizens and legislators alike. We can continue to preserve our neighborhood communities, but aggressively policing occupancy limits only stands to hurt the student community and is not the way to go. 

Collegian Senior Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @seanskenn. 

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