Town enforces housing law; students could be evicted

David Hutter

Hamden Mayor Craig Henrici has stepped up the enforcement of a town ordinance that prohibits more than four unrelated people from living with each other in a Hamden residence.

Any Quinnipiac student who lives in an off-campus home with more than three housemates could conceivably be evicted. But such an occurence is not too likely to occur unless the students arouse the suspicions of their neighbors who then take issue with the students’ behavior and complain to the Hamden police or to the Planning & Zoning Department.

Henrici, a life-long Hamden resident, said he considers the vast majority of Quinnipiac students who live in town neighborhoods to be respectful to their neighbors.

“It is not that the students are bad kids or that they are doing anything different from what I did when I was in college. But it’s just that their schedules and lifestyles are incompatible with those of their neighbors,” Henrici said.

The town of Hamden enacted the resolution in 2001, in response to an outpouring of complaints by residents about the unruly behavior of Quinnipiac students who lived in residential neighborhoods.

Since March 2006, the Planning & Zoning Department has received about 600 complaints regarding potential overcrowded housing units, said Dan Kops, the Hamden assistant town planner. About 80 of these complaints involved Quinnipiac students, Kops said.

“The first problem was that there were not enough beds for (Quinnipiac) students on campus. The second problem was that we received complaints about the misbehavior of enough Quinnipiac students that we had to do something about it,” Kops said, referring to the mayoral administration’s increased efforts to enforce the resolution since March.

The Planning & Zoning Department sends a written notice to landlords who are found breaking the resolution, Kops said. The letter tells the landlords they have 72 hours to comply with the resolution or face a fine.

Henrici, who was elected to the town’s top administrative post in November 2005, campaigned on a platform that included the enforcement of the resolution.

“Last year, when I was campaigning door-to-door, I realized that people were very, very upset,” Henrici said. “And it’s not just a northern Hamden issue. It’s an issue that extends to all neighborhoods in Hamden and even to North Haven. It is one of the most important issues, if not the issue.”

There are at least four Hamden citizen’s organizations that are pressuring the town government to enforce the resolution even more strictly. But this may prove to be difficult, given that Hamden is a town of 57,000 and that the Planning & Zoning Department has only two enforcement officers. The officers respond to complaints by observing the housing sites in question to determine the number of people who actually live in a particular housing unit.

Perhaps the most prominent of the citizens’ organizations is the Concerned Citizens for Hamden neighborhoods, which seeks to have the university house all Quinnipiac undergraduate students on campus.

“We continue to work with the mayor’s office on matters of importance to our neighbors and to the town,” said Lynn Bushnell, university vice president for public affairs, in a statement.

Henrici stresses that he is working to foster smooth relations between the university community and the town residents. Moreover, the 53-year-old Democrat says he is not singling out Quinnipiac students through his increased enforcement of the town ordinance.

Even with the administration’s efforts to enforce the resolution in recent months, some residents are still not happy.

“Unfortunately, some people are actually moving out of town. I talked to a few people who lived in the Mount Carmel area, and they just couldn’t take it anymore,” Henrici said.

About 2,000 Quinnipiac undergraduate students currently live off campus, many of whom live in Hamden. The university began building additional residence halls behind the Village residence halls on the Mount Carmel campus in August. Likewise, the university plans to start building residence halls on the York Hill campus within one year.

The university officials and town officials meet with each other weekly. In August, the university established a telephone hotline for town residents to call to report unruly behavior of Quinnipiac students who live off campus. The campus security has the jurisdiction to respond to these complaints by going to students’ off-campus residences.