Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.
ASCSU is embracing their mission by helping fund research to improve Fort Collins housing.
Last week, the Associated Students of Colorado State University (ASCSU) Senate voted to approve $10,000 of their discretionary funds for use in funding a City of Fort Collins study of the U+2 housing law. The law, which originated in the 1960’s, has since been revamped and enforced with unruly students in mind, rather than the European farm workers it originally targeted. Whether it is a distaste for poor immigrant farm workers that drove this law, or a stereotype of all college students as rowdy and disrespectful to neighbors, the elitism that rationalizes it is palpable.
The comeback of this law, which was largely ignored as Fort Collins progressed from its agricultural roots, was prompted by overzealous, hard-partying college students in the early 2000’s. Official enforcement began again in 2007 and has only become increasingly problematic since then. Fort Collins median rent edges ever closer to $1,400 a month, and the vacancy rate hangs consistently below 5 percent, which is considered a balanced market.
What this means is that there are not many housing options available to renters in any given month, worse yet, the people who need it most can barely afford what is available. Fort Collins students and low income workers are often left with no option other than to break the law to put affordable housing within their reach, which is why just last year the number of U+2 citations issued was record breaking. Passing off new housing construction as salvation from this issue only breeds false hope, even the newer housing options being constructed for students and young professionals are charging top dollar prices for rent.
By making available what is truly a reasonable portion of the ASCSU senates’ $108,332 discretionary fund, they are making encouraging progress in working with the city to find solutions that will benefit their constituency. Upon the decision to reactivate enforcement of the long-dormant U+2 law, Fort Collins commissioned a study of its potential impacts through a Denver based research firm.
The study found that the law would disadvantage students, now a decade into implementation we can see just how much it costs to live. Last year, 40.7% of renters in Fort Collins were spending 35% or more of their income on housing. In the case of our students, this staggering rent cost has to be coupled with the other expenses school brings. Colorado State University estimates the cost for a single student to attend school here, minus tuition, to be $11,632 per scholastic year. That is meant to account for housing, food, books, transportation and miscellaneous expenses. For students working part time in a state where minimum wage is $9.30, $6.38 for tipped workers, the numbers simply cannot add up.
It might be difficult to accept that this portion our student fees is being spent working towards change that most of our current students won’t experience during their academic career at CSU. The political process is a slow one after all. Particularly when there are things like the schools high parking fees that could potentially be helped with this money. As I said before, there’s plenty of money left for things like that.
When you do the math, each of the 33,413 students enrolled in this semester had to contribute less than $0.30 of individual student fees to this decision. A small price to pay when the potential change could improve the lives of countless students and Fort Collins residents in the future.
The ASCSU has been attempting to make changes to this law unsuccessfully for the past two years. Their continued dedication to the cause, with ASCSU President Josh Silva contributing an additional $3,000 from his own discretionary fund, is perfectly in line with working to improve the lives of students. Partnering with Fort Collins’ city hall to work towards more student-friendly housing policy is exactly what the ASCSU should be doing and is entirely consistent with their mission.
Recent research into Fort Collins housing issues has been encouraging in that it is designed to foster community involvement and open discussion, even if the Lego blocks might seem a bit silly. The decision has been made, next is for us as students to look for our opportunities to get involved and have our voices heard in what Fort Collins can do to make living here more affordable and by the same measure, more pleasant.
Columnist Tyler Weston can be reached at email@example.com.