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Housing myth affects students living in Maricopa County
Many students in Tempe, Ariz. believe a law exists that states no more than six unrelated women can live together in a house. Otherwise that residence is considered a brothel. However, no records indicate that this law is still in effect.
By McKenzie Manning

TEMPE - Arizona State University is not the only college that has a large fraternity and sorority presence, but whose campus lacks sorority houses.

"I was told that we do not have houses because of an old Tempe zoning law," said Chelsie Chmela, an ASU junior and active Greek-life member. "The law states something about a certain number of women living together would make it a brothel. Hence, no houses."

This is a common belief on the ASU campus. ASU's sorority women constantly use this as an explanation for the absence of houses.

"I mainly have heard about this law in response to the fact that UofA, our big rivals, have a sorority row," Chmela said.

Fact vs. Fiction
No Maricopa County or Arizona law specifies that no more than six unrelated women may live together because it is considered a brothel. In fact, there is no law that correlates a brothel and a certain number of women living together.

A brothel is legally defined by what occurs within the house, not how many individuals reside there.

The City of Tempe has specific residential requirements. In Section 3-100 of the Zoning and Development Code, only one "family" may live in a single-family dwelling, which consists of a house of one to two stories.

The term "family" is defined under Section 7-107 within the code as "not more than three persons who are not related by the third degree of consanguinity, adoption, marriage or as domestic partners, living together in a dwelling unit."

Jordan Hamm, a real estate agent for Goddes Homes, said he has not heard of a law that limits the living situation of six unrelated women, but he has experienced other housing restrictions.

"I have run into a law that concerns the number of people living together," Hamm said.

Property managers refuse to sign leases if four or more people want to live together because of the zoning restriction, Hamm said. The law is not broken down by gender, rather just by number.

Rumor Mill
This myth is not specific to ASU. The brothel rumor has permeated many campuses across the United States. The origin is unknown but it is estimated to have started in 1960, according to Snopes.com.

"Brothel law" rumors are so prevalent in the workings of collegiate life that few actually think to question it. The myth is just an accepted explanation, as stated by Snopes.com.

The issue is there are websites that list "weird laws" believed to still exist. Sites such as Dumblaws.com offer a breakdown of laws, state-by-state. While there is an abundance of these websites, only a few list the rumored Maricopa County housing restriction as an active law.

"I think it's just an urban legend," said ASU spokeswoman Terri Shafer. "It's a simple solution and a memorable solution."

Shafer was not previously aware of the rumor but is not surprised that so many students believe it as the reason behind the lack of sorority housing.

ASU has run into the problem of housing Greek life before. In 2002, sorority members were moved from Palo Verde Main to Adelphi Commons. This is still the residence for sorority women on campus.

"We were always told that the law existed," said Allison McDermott. "Even though we were in a sorority, we could not have a house because, by law, it would be termed a brothel."

McDermott, an ASU Greek life Alum, participated in the move from one dorm complex to another.

"Because of that law, we never fought to have sorority houses at ASU," McDermott said.

ASU boasts more than 60,000 students that are spread over four campuses. Participation in the Greek community does not reflect such a large campus. There are different thoughts as to why ASU's Greek life is not as influential as the Greek life at the University of Arizona, but many sorority women at ASU believe it is because there is no sorority row.

"I think that not having a house really affects sorority life in general," McDermott said. "Having all-house dinners every night, experiences like that, truly add to the sorority experience. We do not get that at ASU."

"I believed the law existed because we do have a Frat Row at ASU," Chmela said. "It explained why the men had houses but not the women."

The City of Tempe's housing laws do not have jurisdiction on ASU property, accoring to Sherri Lesser, a City of Tempe planner.

"You can apply for a permit to take over an apartment complex that is off campus," Lesser said, "but Alpha Drive is not affected by our zoning laws because it sits on ASU property."

The question remains as to why ASU never built traditional sorority houses. No ASU official had a comment.

ASU is renovating all of Greek housing. Officials start bulldozing half of Alpha Drive in the summer of 2010. Plans are in the works for a "Greek Village" in which sororities and fraternities would all live in clusters on one side of campus. Estimate time of move is 2012 but plans have yet to be finalized.