Maximum occupancy rules should be changed


My name is Jonathon Sundet. I’m currently a proud student at South Dakota State University, Go Jacks!, and a lifelong Brookings resident. I’m writing to the editor today to advocate for the city council to change Brookings Ordinance Section 22-374 that pertains to maximum occupancy limits. In this ordinance, Brookings restricts rental dwellings to three unrelated adults. 

If there are four or more bedrooms available, for example, there would still be a cap of three unrelated adults. Keep in mind that if the scenario was the same but they were blood-related, they would then be able to legally rent over that cap of three.

We are always looking for ways to create and stimulate affordable housing for people that want to enjoy living in Brookings. That’s why our city motto is “Bring Your Dreams.” 

More people come to live in Brookings, their dollars flow through our local businesses, and our city benefits from the increase in vibrancy and economic gains. In this opportunity to improve the ordinance, it could impact many adults in Brookings and those who want to move into town. With the reduction of costs, many adults including students would have additional dollars to spend elsewhere in Brookings. So not only would Brookings benefit from more people having the opportunity to move here, but some in town won’t have to individually spend as much on housing.

Besides the housing opportunities we could create through changing this policy, I do believe the ordinance doesn’t have many reasons to cap the maximum at three unrelated adults. With many places have four bedrooms, so even changing the cap to four would be a step in the right direction, why does having one more induvial in the rental create an issue? Especially, when any issue that someone could think of would legally be allowed if they’re related, so there’s no benefit to having that cap at three.

Additionally, this ordinance punishes people that follow the law. Many people break this law because it has little to no enforcement. 

Being coined the “cousin rule,” many people who are desperate to afford housing and rent with four people often say that the fourth individual is a cousin. Even without a possible enforcement on this law, there are individuals who follow the law and either don’t choose that renting option or are forced to spend more of their dollars for housing. 

This problem can be fixed, and that’s why I’m writing today.

A possible solution could be a variation of one adult per bedroom. Everyone that I have spoken to about this ordinance has their reservations about the maximum occupancy limits, but housing is a sensitive topic and you will never please everyone. Because of that, not many people are readily willing to take this issue up. 

That’s why I’m writing to the editor to say that this change could bring many positive outcomes to Brookings and I’m optimistic that a better ordinance can be worked out.