PA House Bill 809 would end Tredyffrin’s right to regulate student housing

For rentPA House Bill 809 sponsored by State Rep Susan Helm of Dauphin and Lebanon Counties will change college rental restrictions if passed.

Helm’s proposed legislation claims that it is discriminatory for municipalities to single out students with rental regulations and would short-circuit any municipal ordinance that prohibits the occupation of a dwelling unity by students or unrelated individuals living together.

The proposed legislation would allow a municipality to enact and enforce ordinances that regulate things like noise levels, parking, and health and safety concerns. House Bill 809 addresses municipal rental restrictions that single out students, suggesting that this is discriminatory, based on an assumption that they will be problem neighbors.

PA House Bill 809 would override any current municipal housing ordinances that restrict the use of single-family homes, as college student rentals. The proposed legislation states that a municipality would not be able to prohibit the occupation of a dwelling based on an individual’s matriculation status (that is, if they are enrolled in college) or on the number of unrelated individuals sharing the property.

In the Mt. Pleasant community of Tredyffrin Township, the conversion of traditionally family-occupied homes to student rental properties has led to ongoing problems among the neighbors.  Beyond the late-night noise, increased traffic, liter, illegal parking, the permanent residents of Mt. Pleasant are frustrated with the increasing number of student rentals and what they view as the adverse effects caused by the influx of students.

Because of the ongoing citizen complaints in Mt. Pleasant, Tredyffrin Township passed two ordinances in 2010, which placed zoning restrictions on the student rentals as a way to protect the rights of the permanent residents in the township.

Tredyffrin’s Registration Ordinance requires all homeowners in the township who rent to students to register with the township. The registration requires contact information on the student including the college/university/trade school the renter attends and contact information for the dean of students at the student’s school.

The township’s Zoning Ordinance for student housing is specific and states that all homeowners who wish to rent to students need special-exception approval from the Zoning Hearing Board. The properties must have at least a 10-foot buffer around the home, no more than three student tenants and a specified minimum distance from other student homes.

After many meetings and much discussion, Tredyffrin’s supervisors, residents and property owners, agreed on the township’s student zoning regulations but if Rep Helm has her way, House Bill 809 would override the the ordinances. If the House Bill 809 passes, where would this leave Mt. Pleasant community and its residents?

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  1. Thanks Pattye. I can’t go through this again. I just don’t have it in me. Kids moved in last week and I’m already dealing with all the noise, drunkenness, traffic, etc… I live across the street from 6 student rentals. If this bill passes, landlords will be able to put two students per bedroom… Each of these 6 homes has four bedrooms…that could mean that there could be 48 kids living there… Like frat houses or boarding homes.

    I really hate to think that we are discriminating (I have a daughter who will be living in off-campus housing this year) but the reality is that the stress of dealing with this day after day can be debilitating…

    If this passes, I’ll have to leave a community that I have come to know and love. And that will be one more student rental for my neighbors to deal with.

    BTW – Since the ordinance took effect we have had 8 houses up for sale and every single one of them has sold to a family! Four of these homes were new construction :) Still several empty lots to be developed.

    **If anybody reading this has any suggestions as to how I should proceed please post! I’m lost on this one**

    (Sorry for the choppy post, poor grammar and spelling. It’s a beautiful evening and I’m outside watching the kids play…typing on my cell)

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  2. Like Christine I live near the student housing as well. Our community fought hard for the 2010 legislation which has helped a great deal to at least prevent the student housing problem from getting worse.
    I think that we need to get everyone in the area to call Warren Kampf’s office as ask him to fight this legislation. He knows this issue as he was on the Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors when the student housing ordinance was passed. His # in Harrisburg is 717-260-6166 and his number in Paoli is 610-251-2876.

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    Pattye Reply:

    Yes, a call to State Rep Warren Kampf’s office is a good idea. There’s little doubt that Mt. Pleasant community probably has the highest number of student rentals in the Tredyffrin. But residents need to know that this proposed legislation would make it easier for student housing investors throughout the township.

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  3. Do we have a copy of the proposed bill? I think the township should discuss the proposed legislation with their attorney to see exactly how it would affect our ordinance(s). This would also affect Radnor. Wonder what they’ll do about it.

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    Pattye Reply:

    I hyperlinked to the the bill in my post — first sentence.

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  4. Here is Radnor’s Resolution opposing HB809. Will be signed at next Monday’s BOC meeting.
    I’m waiting on a copy of Lower Merion’s.
    So far we haven’t heard back from anybody in Tredyffrin.

    RESOLUTION 2015-78
    A RESOLUTION OF THE RADNOR TOWNSHIP BOARD OF
    COMMISSIONERS, RADNOR TOWNSHIP, DELAWARE COUNTY,
    PENNSYLVANIA, OPPOSING HOUSE BILL 809 WHICH WOULD PROHIBIT
    STUDENT HOUSING REGULATIONS RESULTING IN DEVASTATING
    EFFECTS ON TOWNSHIP NEIGHBORHOODS BY CONCENTRATING
    STUDENT RESIDENTS IN SUCH NEIGHBORHOODS AND BY ELIMINATING
    AFFORDABLE HOUSING STOCK IN THE TOWNSHIP.

    WHEREAS, Radnor Township has regulated rental properties and student rental housing
    pursuant to local regulations since 2003; and
    WHEREAS, student rental housing is currently permitted as a special exception pursuant
    to the Township’s Zoning Ordinance; and
    WHEREAS, there are several colleges and universities located in and adjacent to Radnor
    Township; and
    WHEREAS, proposed House Bill 809 would eliminate local regulation of student
    housing requirements thereby having a devastating effect on the quality of life of Township
    residents in the Township’s neighborhoods.
    NOW, THEREFORE, it is hereby RESOLVED that the Radnor Township Board of
    Commissioners does hereby oppose House Bill 809 which would preempt the Township’s local
    student housing regulations for the following reasons:
    1. House Bill 809 would deprive the Township of a necessary regulation
    which serves to protect and preserve the existing residential character of neighborhoods.
    2. House Bill 809 would severely impact property values and quality of life
    in Township neighborhoods in order to benefit a small number of Township landlords.
    3. House Bill 809 would severely impact Township residents’ rights to their
    enjoyment of their residential properties.
    4. House Bill 809 would exacerbate existing parking problems in Township
    neighborhoods by increasing the student population density along with the density of student
    vehicles.
    5. House Bill 809 would eliminate incentives for universities and colleges to
    provide for adequate on-campus housing for its students.
    6. The increase in student density in Township neighborhoods would result
    in an additional need for police services and would create additional conflicts between students
    and existing residents

    http://www.radnor.com/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/07272015-796

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Christine for this information — please let us know if there’s an update from Tredyffrin Twp.

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  5. it never ceases to amaze me at how our state and federal governments operate from “up there” and say “up yours” to local control of our communities…..again and again.. good gosh that I would be so damn smart..and smug..

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  6. I received a reply to my email from BOS Mark Freed. He said he can’t speak for the entire Board, but he is strongly opposed. He also mentions that this is a state proposal, not local. Does this mean that there are no real options for the Township? Does this mean that the State can preempt other local zoning ordinances?

    I don’t know if there is anything that can be done. State will probably support the landlord organizations pushing for this bill $$$

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    Pattye Reply:

    Christine, my understanding that if the bill were to pass, it would override the existing local regulations. Different municipalities, including Radnor Township as you previously mentioned, are working on resolutions which state their opposition to House Bill 809. There is merit in the local governments (Tredyffrin Township) taking an official stand. Thanks for the update from Supervisor Freed.

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  7. This morning “I BUY HOUSES FOR CASH” signs appeared all along Upper Gulph Road across from Mt. Pleasant. House Bill 809 or coincidence??? Is St. David’s Golf Course ok with this kind of advertising being posted on their property?

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  8. I still haven’t received a reply from anybody else on the BOS. I don’t know why? I reread my email and I don’t think it’s offensive in any way. I was just asking if Tredyffrin was going to make a public statement regarding the bill. I also attached a copy of Radnor’s resolution opposing it.

    Meanwhile…the crowds opposing this bill are growing…

    http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20150727_Towns_fight_for_limits_on_student_housing.html

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    Pattye Reply:

    I received an update from Tredyffrin Twp BOS Chairman Mike Heaberg regarding House Bill 809. The township has been in contact with State Rep Warren Kampf’s office regarding their opposition to the proposed legislation. At the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday, August 17, a township resolution opposing House Bill 809 is planned for the agenda with public comment invited.

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  9. Why is it that you get a reply, but not me? What am I, blacklisted…lol?

    I expect a large turnout for the August 17th meeting. Facebook notifications and flyers are going out tonight. Also, working on a larger meeting with representatives from community/civic groups from West Chester all the way Philadelphia!

    Thanks for the update :)

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    Pattye Reply:

    Everyone (residents, supervisors, township staff, police, etc) worked so hard on getting the zoning restrictions in place for student housing in Tredyffrin Twp.that I don’t think anyone wants to see those efforts undone by House Bill 809.

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  10. I just read that Chester County Commissioner, Terence Farrell, is also a Commissioner for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, “which is charged with administering and enforcing the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act and the Pennsylvania Fair Educational Opportunities Act through investigation, identification, and elimination of unlawful discrimination and the promotion of equal opportunity for all persons.” This makes me wonder…

    Why wouldn’t PA State Rep. Sue Helm​ and her landlord organizations (or the college students who feel discriminated against) file with the Human Relations Commission before proposing legislation claiming discrimination??? Any lawyers out there?

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  11. Sorry. One more…

    “Insurance companies are refusing to write policies for units that are rented to students. Those that do can and do charge more money”

    Landlord who testified for House Bill 809. Is this the real issue? Is it that landlords are being discriminated against by the insurance agencies?

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  12. I received an email from Mike Heaberg. He says that the matter will be on the agenda at the next BOS Meeting and that in order to pass a resolution the Board must do it at a public meeting.

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    Pattye Reply:

    That’s right — and the next Board of Supervisors Meeting is Monday, August 17. I encourage residents who are interested in the ‘Say No to HB 809’ message to attend the BOS meeting and voice their opinions!

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  13. I am the 5th Ward Commissioner of Haverford Township (Delaware County). I asked for a resolution opposing HB809 this evening at our monthly meeting. It passed 9-0.

    Pattye, your friend Carla is my friend Carla too…she rocks!

    Jeff

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    Pattye Reply:

    Thanks Jeff for the update from Haverford Township – I’m glad to hear that your resolution against 809 passed! It’s the right thing to do, good for you! Tredyffrin Township has their Board of Supervisors meeting coming up on August 17. It is my understanding that the supervisors plan to have a discussion and vote on a similar resolution opposing HB809.

    PS: Glad to hear that we have Carla in common :)

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  14. how is this not age discrimination? I live in west Philadelphia surrounded by families, grad students, undergrad students, young professionals. It’s a great mix of people. It actually enhances quality-of-life. In the rare cases where there is an unruly student or two, the cops and Universities deal with it. To restrict someone based on age is clearly discriminatory. Age should be a protected class for everyone, not just those over 40. I say yes to House Bill 809!

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