Neighbor vs neighbor in housing debate

It was democracy at its best Monday night, when over 200 Hattiesburg residents showed up for heated discussions on an ordinance that may push many renters out of the Hub City's single-family homes.

The goal of the proposed ordinance is clear: prevent a bunch of college students from turning a single-family home into a party pad.

"There is lots and lots of cars but they rotate through cycles, and they change, it's like a living organism.  You don't know what going on, but you know that it's not right."

With over 200 people present at the meeting, no one seemed to complain about the spirit of the proposed law.  But many were concerned with the verbiage. Currently the proposed ordinance is worded so that it would be unlawful for two or more colleagues that are not blood-related to be rental roommates in a single-family home.

"Forrest General Hospital is one of the biggest employers we have. I rent many houses to two nurses that work at Forrest General Hospital. Three nurses that work at Forrest General Hospital."

Such a rental would be unlawful if this ordinance passes.

"Can anyone explain to me why three people that are not related cannot live in a three-bedroom home?"

The meeting got a little heated when someone asked where do the students go and someone in the crowd responded go home.

"My name is Richard Smith. I'm a student at USM. I want to thank all of ya'll for telling me to go home. I'm glad you all care so much about my education. I see some professors in here. Sorry that is going to effect your income a little bit."
And the Hattiesburg Association of Realtors voiced its concerns.

"We will not be able to absorb the student housing demand. If students cannot find housing they will go to a university where they can find housing."

But the council is under pressure from constituents to keep party houses out of their neighborhoods. Council President Carter Carroll says officials hope to carve out an ordinance before the end of the year that can please both sides.