The University of Dayton will work for two months to reinforce the floors of 301 student houses as a “precautionary measure” after the floors of two homes sank during large parties earlier this month.
Work is expected to begin at the university-owned houses next week and students will not have to move out during the construction, according to UD. A cost estimate for the work was not yet available, and the university said it will “enhance safety without compromising the character of the student neighborhoods.”
The news was met favorable by students, who were unhappy last week when UD set new occupancy limits on all houses and apartments after the floors of two homes on Lawnview Avenue and Frericks Way “shifted a few inches” during parties. An estimated 35 and 50 people were in the homes when the floors sank on Jan. 18. Eleven students who lived in the two homes were displaced, but no one was injured.
The following week, the university issued new occupancy limits for all houses and apartments. The limits range from 12 to 20 people depending on the structure, according to William M. Fischer, vice president for student development.
UD student government president Emily Kaylor said the limits changed the atmosphere on campus drastically.
“When they set the occupancy limits and sent the email there was a lot of students upset at the fact that they weren’t going to be able to have more than 13 people in their house and for some people that would be their family,” said Kaylor, a Kettering native who lives in a university-owned home.
UD said the occupancy limits will likely be adjusted once the floors are reinforced, which Kaylor said has made students hopeful that their community will not be damaged.
“By reinforcing the floors, hopefully those limits can go up and we can get the community atmosphere back. Students love their houses on campus. We love getting together at the houses,” said Kaylor, who commended the university for working proactively with student government.
“They took our concerns seriously and we’re glad they’re looking at other ways to keep safety and community at the same time,” she said.
Fischer warned students last week in an email that they would be held responsible for violating their home’s occupancy limit, including financially for any damage. He also reminded students via email that their houses and apartments “were built as residences and using them for other purposes, such as hosting very large gatherings, could compromise their safety.”
Fischer’s email prompted students at a university-owned house, 218 Kiefaber St., to report a sinking floor.
Dayton fire department crews found a soft spot in the floor, caused by uneven floor joists from a previous repair. UD officials determined the six students could remain in the two-story house, built in 1901, because there were no safety concerns.
UD began buying up homes in the early 20th century neighborhoods north and south of campus in the 1970s. When a property becomes available the school tries to buy it and fix it up, officials have said. Now more than 90 percent of students live in dorms, apartments and houses in the neighborhoods.
The school says it spends $2 million annually on routine renovations and upgrades to houses within the student neighborhoods.
“These houses symbolize the university’s strong identity as a welcoming community and are beloved by students and alumni,” said university President Daniel J. Curran in an announcement about the work. “We are committed to preserving that unique sense of community that defines this campus.”