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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Students Sue City to Stop Off-Campus Housing Ban

(CN) - Students from Johnson & Wales University claim in court that the city of Providence, R.I. unlawfully prevents landlord's from renting single-family homes to groups of three or more students.

In a lawsuit filed in Providence/Bristol County Superior Court, four university students and the owner of a single-family home who rents to them claim the City Council passed the ordinance banning the rentals in a misguided attempt to curb rowdy parties and other "negative impacts" of student housing.

At the time the bill's sponsor, Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, said the law was necessary because the use of single-family homes as off campus housing is, "undermining the character of our neighborhoods, diminishing the quality of life, and creating health and public safety concerns."

The plaintiffs, however, claim the ordinance is an "unconstitutional intrusion into the rights of college and graduate students to choose with whom they wish to live, and the rights of the property owners to rent their homes to tenants of their choice," and are asking the Courts to invalidate the ordinance.

They point out that laws already exist to combat noise and traffic concerns in residential neighborhoods without discriminating against a renter's occupation or education status.

"Ultimately, it will have its most significant impact on students from low-income and middle-income families who can't afford to cover a larger share of the rent in a single-family home," said attorney Jeffrey Levy of Levy & Blackman LLP, who is representing the plaintiffs in cooperation with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Rhode Island.

They seek declaratory relief, compensatory and exemplary damages, and payment of their court costs on claims the city violated their right to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution.

A representative of the city did immediately respond to a request for comment.

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