Proposed bill might lift limits on rental properties

Natalie Williams

A proposed bill in the Iowa Legislature could potentially change an Ames ordinance that limits the number of tenants living in a rental property.

Iowa House Bill 9 states that a city may not limit the number of people living in a household based on family relations.

Currently, the city of Ames defines a family as a group of people who are related or three unrelated persons. Only one family is allowed to live in a rental property in a residential low-density zone.

In a medium or high-density zone, only one family or one more person than the number of bedrooms, up to five people are allowed to live together in an apartment or dwelling.

If passed, there would be no restrictions on the number of people living in a rental property, regardless of density. It would mostly affect landlords and renters, but some homeowner’s could be facing some major changes as well.

Brian Phillips, a representative from the city manager’s office, said that the bill would most directly affect the neighborhoods adjacent to campus.

For students, this would mean that more people could live together on one rental property.

For renters, this change would open up more revenue for prospective renters.

But for homeowners near campus, this could mean a total change in the atmosphere of their neighborhoods.

Philips explained that neighborhoods around campus weren’t designed for a large number of people to live there. This change could lead to sanitation, noise and parking problems.

Philips gave the example of the greek neighborhood near campus that has constant traffic and parking issues. “It was not designed for people with many cars or people with very different schedules.”

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, the Iowa Representative for District 45 and an Ames resident, lives five blocks away from the ISU campus and understands homeowners’ frustrations. “We only have a one-car garage, and if I were to sell my house to a landlord to rent out, the yard would have to be used as a parking lot, because there is no room.”

The bill is causing controversy in the Iowa Legislature, as many cities are not happy with this decision, including Ames.

“The biggest interest the city of Ames has is preserving the ability for the city to makes these decisions at a local level rather than the state,” Philips said.

Wessel–Kroeschell said cities are concerned with the decline of historical neighborhoods like her own. “Any city wants to prevent the deterioration of neighborhoods and avoid blighted areas.”

Other college towns in Iowa are facing the same concerns, Philips said.

Philips thinks that the decision would be better to be made at the local level than state. “Local officials would be able to take into account local conditions,” Philips said.