There appears to be some confusion about the North Central Philadelphia Community Special District Controls ordinance. This is the ordinance that was enacted in 2005 to protect the Yorktown neighborhood.
Here are the facts.
Most of Yorktown is zoned R-9A. R-9A prohibits more than three unrelated persons from living together in a single-family house. So, it’s clear that groups of four or more unrelated students are illegal, and always have been illegal, in Yorktown.
In 2005, City Council enacted an ordinance called “North Central Philadelphia Community Special District Controls.”
If you read the purpose and the legislative findings of this ordinance, it is clear that it is directed at stopping conversions of single-family dwellings into multi-family dwellings. This activity was already prohibited in the R-9A zone and, for that reason, the City Planning Commission called the ordinance “redundant” and recommended its disapproval.
There is a vaguely worded clause that prohibits “student housing not owner-occupied,” but the Planning Commission did not feel that this was intended to create a new restriction not already existing in the R-9A zone. Some members of the Yorktown community have suggested that student housing is prohibited “whether it’s one student or 50 students.” Students should think twice before accepting this interpretation.
It is questionable whether it is even permitted under the constitution to treat students differently from non-students in zoning matters. The Supreme Court has never considered the issue.