Cumberland Times-News


February 17, 2014

Fire shows need to address student housing

The fire in Frostburg is a nightmare I knew would someday materialize. I had a daughter that went to Frostburg and graduated in 2004.

My wife and I wanted to buy a property for her to live and save some money by getting her roommates (or her finding roommates). Also, this would teach her some life lessons that students won’t get living in student housing.

I had looked at several houses on Bowery street and my first impression was “”firetrap.”

Although Frostburg has the feel good zoning law of requiring smoke detectors and adequate parking, there was no requirement to have a safe unit (good heating, electrical system, appliances, etc.). I thought to myself, that someday, there will be a fire, and multiple students will harmed and the whole street would go up in flames.

Frostburg zoning is set up such that only areas within the “student rental zone” can have housemates that are not related (or non-familial).

When I heard this, I termed this law as the “Landlord Protection Zone.” By zoning the properties like this, the landlords are guaranteed to make money with little motivation to keep the properties safe.

It creates low supply and high demand. This in turn creates a type of monopoly on student housing. Students can either pick on-campus housing that is expensive and doesn’t teach them life skills, or a dilapidated housing in the “Zone.”

A free market system removing the “Zone” where competition would prevail, would force the landlords to provide better motivation in updating their apartments.

Supply would go up and landlords would be more willing to improve their properties. Properties would in turn become safer and less expensive. I believe that the zoning restriction is un-American, in telling people where they should live before they are permitted to rent a home. I also believe it is discriminatory.

Frostburg needs to address student housing by loosening their zoning restrictions by “address.” Zoning with the primary purpose to prevent who your neighbors might be is wrong and results in an unsafe environment for all.

 Tim Twigg


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