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Christy Lambden pitches occupancy limit petition to town of Chapel Hill

Lambden began researching the occupancy rule after several students were asked to leave their homes in November for violating the rule, he said in a statement last month .

Student Body Vice President Jacob Morse said a petition to repeal the rule, released Feb. 19, drew 917 signatures from students and town residents.

Morse said he thought the group’s presentation before the council went well and that it was another step in the process of getting the council to consider the proposal.

“We hope to continue to engage with the council on this issue and make some progress going forward,” Morse said.

The ordinance, instituted in 2003 , limits the number of unrelated persons allowed to live in a house to four. Lambden’s recommendation is to raise the limit to six, though he declined to comment after the meeting on his initiative.

Lambden created a student work group to address the issue, which recommended the increase to six people. In the statement, he said the occupancy limit negatively affects both students as well as non-students living in the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods.

Advocates for the Northside and Pine Knolls areas have said repealing the occupancy rule would further hurt the historically black, low-income neighborhoods, which have seen a massive influx of student renters in the last decade. Advocates say as students have pushed into these areas, property values have risen, forcing many longtime residents out of their homes.

Morse said he hopes the presentation will prompt discussion from the Town Council members. He also said Lambden’s administration will be working with Student Body President-Elect Andrew Powell , who takes office next month.

Powell, who signed the petition, said he recognized the petition is part of a bigger discussion.

“The petition shows that students have been negatively affected, which is important,” Powell said. “Hopefully, this then branches out into a broader set of solutions addressing housing.”

He also said there has not been significant support for the petition among Town Council members when he has met with them.

“It seems that they are not in support of overturning the rule,” said Powell.

Town staff will now review the petition before it is submitted to the Town Council for discussion.

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