Janesville87.2°

City, school address housing concerns

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Kayla Bunge
August 27, 2008
— The city is trying to nip in the bud what some residents say is the eventual death of their neighborhoods as more and more single-family homes are “converted” to student rental properties.

The Whitewater Housing Task Force was formed last fall to address the problem, and this spring the group made eight recommendations to the Whitewater City Council to improve housing conditions.


The task force recommended the city:


-- Develop a first-time homebuyers program to encourage single-family home ownership.


-- Help the development of neighborhood associations to maintain the integrity of single-family neighborhoods.


-- Amend the re-inspection ordinance to increase fees for property owners who don’t comply with orders to correct violations.


-- Develop a chronic nuisance ordinance that includes criminal violations, housing and zoning violations and off-street parking violations.


-- Amend the zoning ordinance to give property owners the ability to get court injunctions and recover attorney fees when they file housing complaints against other property owners.


-- Amend the zoning ordinance to ensure the right of quiet enjoyment of each resident in his or her home and to create a formal complaint form that property owners could submit to the city for housing violations.


-- Create a landlord database to inform rental property owners of local ordinances and programs that might affect them and to contact them in an emergency.


-- Evaluate the need for more staff for housing enforcement.


City Manager Kevin Brunner said all but one recommendation—the chronic nuisance ordinance—have been implemented, evidence that the city already has made some progress.


“We’ve made a lot of inroads,” he said. “How do we measure that? I don’t know.”


Brunner said education is a key component for reconciling the differences between residents and students.


“It’s about living together,” he said. “The issue is there’s a continually changing group of students, so education is so important.”


The city gives landlords brochures for student tenants about moving off campus and into a residential neighborhood. The brochures cover noise and alcohol violations and ordinances that address garbage, sidewalks and lawns.


Another brochure gives students tips on how to throw a party without disrupting the neighborhood.


Resources on paper, online


The university attempts to educate students before they move off campus.


The UW-Whitewater Office of Residence Life give students a transition guide, which addresses the basics from landlord-tenant relations to living with a roommate.


Residence life also requires students moving out of the dorms to complete an online course about living off campus.


“It educates them about city ordinances, noise violations, parking violations—just being good neighbors,” said Jeff Janz, interim dean of student life and former director of residence life.


UW-Whitewater Student Government has information for students moving from dorms to apartments, including a searchable online property database and an online renter resource guide.


The guide covers landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities, city ordinances and respect for the neighborhood.


“It hasn’t had much student response yet,” said Allison Rygh, student government president. “It’s too new. But just going through and looking at the information, it’s so helpful. (Students) will find it extremely useful.”



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