Providence says no to renting basement apartments

PROVIDENCE—The City Council voted Tuesday night to keep the city ordinance that prohibits accessory dwelling units. The vote was 4-1 with Councilman Russell voting against the ordinance.The ordinance says that homeowners can have relatives, either by blood, marriage or adoption, live with them for any period of time, but cannot have unrelated individuals live with them unless they are willing to share all of their living quarters. This means residents can have an unrelated live-in caretaker if they are willing to share a kitchen, bathroom, etc. The caretaker cannot live in the basement apartment, or any other closed off area of the house.Wendy Wimmer, planning commission chairwoman, presented the planning commission’s stand on this issue. Wimmer said it was a tough topic for the commission to discuss but when it came time to vote, all but one member voted to keep the city ordinance. The planning commission held a public hearing Feb. 10 regarding the question of accessory dwelling units.”I don’t think we had a single person stand up,” Wimmer said. This was a surprise to her, because people usually have strong opinions on such controversial issues.Mayor Liechty said the ordinance seemed ridiculous to him. “So I can have 25 family members living with me, and have 12 cars parked at my house, but I can’t have two unrelated people live there?” the mayor asked, sardonically.The reason the ordinance is in place is to prevent overpopulation of houses and neighborhoods. Since it is lawful to have an unlimited amount of related individuals share your home, Liechty said the ordinance didn’t seem to be serving its purpose.If the ordinance had been changed, it would have allowed homeowners to rent out a portion of their home to unrelated individuals as long as the rented portion was built to fire code. Homeowners could also have had unrelated people living in private quarters of their home without paying rent, such as a caretaker.As the ordinance stands, it is legal for a homeowner to rent their home to a single family or to three unrelated individuals, such as college students, if the homeowners are not currently living there. However, it is not legal to rent a home to four or more unrelated individuals, or to rent any portion of a home if the owner occupies any portion of it.

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