Tuesday, September 27, 2022 Sep 27, 2022
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A Catch-22 at SMU

By Amy Zimmer |

ONCE AGAIN, SMU STUDENTS ARE PREPARING to hit the books-and resume scuffling with University Park officials over a decades-old zoning ordinance that prohibits more than two people “unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption” from living together “as a single housekeeping unit.”

The ordinance, created to control housing density and maintain property values, means that some SMU students renting three- and four-bedroom houses near the campus are perpetually in violation of the code-an arrangement winked at by many landlords, says recent graduate Shawn Fullam. When he and three roommates moved into a four-bedroom duplex on Asbury Street, Fullam says, his landlord wrote a clause into the rental contract stating that the students knew the ordinance existed and would conform to the code if caught. After Fullam’s duplex and several others on the street were turned in for code violations, two of the roomies moved out. Residents in other houses on the street complied for a while, then went back to violating the code.

University Park officials downplay the problem. “We have about 23,000 residents in University Park and the students represent a small part of it,” says Mayor Pete Goldman. City manager Bob Livingston says students should either live on campus {“the university has adequate bousing”) or rent nearby apartments. “They would still have to conform, but it’s cheaper than houses.” But according to Debbie Clifford, assistant director of housing and resident life at SMU, the university can house only one-third of the students who are enrolled full-time.

As the fuss continues, exes like Fullam wonder if the law is necessary to keep University Park a “family” city. “To say the ordinance was not meant to discriminate against SMU students is accurate, but it has conveniently turned into that.”