Yikes! Housemates illegal? We have a lot of work to do. in March 2013, (Link to article no longer available.) the city council of Watertown, NY voted three to two to make having housemates illegal. Clearly this is something I don’t agree with, there are many benefits to sharing housing that can improve a community as a whole!
Prejudice Against Shared Housing
I fear that the vote represents a very narrow perspective on who might have people who are unrelated living with them. I’m sure that the City Council wasn’t thinking of retired and widowed seniors who might choose to have a housemate for companionship, help with tasks, and some additional cash. Nor were they considering single parents for whom joining up to share a roof offers some amazing benefits for them and their children. To say nothing of working single people who might simply like to have company at home.
There is a prejudice afoot in this country that sharing housing is somehow an option only for the people who might be “undesirable.” In this case the city council decided to enforce housing zoning to be only for single-families.
I hope that they change this ruling. What do you think? Do you know of zoning ordinances/laws that make sharing housing illegal? How should we respond?
A Record of the Meeting
The Ordinance “Amending the Code of the City of Watertown, §310-34, Accessory Uses in Residence Districts” (Introduced on 12/17/2012; public hearing held this evening; appears in its entirety on page 320-321 of the 2012 Minutes Book).
Council Member Smith indicated that changing this had nothing to do with race, orientation or discrimination. He stated that it is about what a Residential A neighborhood is and that people expect it to consist of single family homes. He added that zoning defines a neighborhood and its character.
Council Member Macaluso mentioned that she takes issue with the Council determining who is allowed to live with whom in the City. She said that this case is a bunch of friends living together and she does not see that any different than a family.
Council Member Burns commented that it is not a matter of who lives there but more the number of people that live in the house. She said that she does not see this as Council deciding what constitutes a family. She noted that the people that signed the petition felt that they purchased property for single family residences. Regarding the Planning Board’s recommendations, she stated that she would support passing this.
Council Member Butler indicated that this is a tough decision but the reason why there are differently zoned residences is because they have distinguishing characteristics. He said that when multiple uses are allowed in these zones then the lines of distinction start to blur.
At the call of the chair, a vote was taken on the foregoing ordinance and carried with all voting yea except Council Member Teresa R. Macaluso and Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham voting nay.
Read more about Shared Housing and society: Sharing home with other adults? Remodel to Keep Peace , Going Solo—”Surprising Appeal of Living Alone”—Really?