Blouch: U+2 has a history of classism and racism

Cat Blouch

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If you live in Fort Collins, chances are you’re familiar with the U+2 law.


According to the City of Fort Collins, the law states, “Occupancy in a residential dwelling unit (single-family, duplex and multifamily) is restricted to one family … and not more than one additional person; or one adult and their dependents (if any), a second adult and their dependents (if any) and not more than one additional person.”

Put simply, Fort Collins does not allow any one person to live with more than two other unrelated people. This law has a long history of being especially problematic for students.

The Associated Students of Colorado State University has long put a great emphasis on fighting this law. Some campaigns have been specifically designed to expand the rules, coining a movement called “Me+3,” which seeks to broaden the terms of the law to allow any one person to live with no more than three unrelated people as opposed to just two.

The implication here is that immigrants negatively impact the quality and character of a neighborhood, which is a racist ideology.”

As students at CSU, we are especially intimate with this law. According to the Coloradoan, 2018 saw the busiest year for U+2 violations with 129 cited cases of possible housing occupancy violations by only the end of August that year. About 70% of yearly violations are committed by students.

If a house has five bedrooms, does it not make sense for those five bedrooms to be occupied? It begs the question of why this law exists in the first place, and it comes as no surprise that a law that uniquely impacts low-income individuals has a messy history rooted in classism and racism.

It is this history that we must acknowledge to fully understand the impact it has in the current day in continuing to uphold ideologies rooted in bigotry.

It is a nonsensical law and a reminder of some of the more shameful parts of the City’s past.”

The law was originally passed in 1964 and at the time was a criminal offense but has since been changed to a civil offense. 

According to Hannah Taylor, former president of ASCSU, in a YouTube video about U+2, “The reason for this ordinance was because, at the time, we were a really big agriculture town, and so we had a lot of European immigrants coming in for work in the agriculture industry. … Community members in Fort Collins were complaining about the amount of immigrants that were coming into the town, packing houses and filling their neighborhoods. And so this ordinance was actually in response to all the immigrants, … and it has a huge anti-immigrant origin.”

This is concerning when the City of Fort Collins itself says U+2 is to “help protect the quality and character of neighborhoods.” The implication here is that immigrants negatively impact the quality and character of a neighborhood, which is a racist ideology.

Not only does U+2 have a questionable past, it continues to be a discriminatory law for students in particular. An opinion article from Medium discussed the 2016 Avery Park pilot program, wherein “the City actively enforced U+2 exclusively in a half-mile square area west of campus.” The time frame for this program was one semester and took place in a clustered area of student housing. Not for a year, not for six months, but for a semester — a time frame that is uniquely used by students.


The history of U+2 exemplifies how the law is being used in the current day to uphold classist and racist ideology, as well as uniquely impacting students of CSU. It is a nonsensical law and a reminder of some of the more shameful parts of the City’s past. Reforming this law is not only important in reflecting the views of the city’s residents — it’s about rectifying a law that has roots in bigotry.

Reach Cat Blouch at or on Twitter @BlouchCat.