Student Government and Ames City Council hold joint meeting on student housing


Jillian Alt/Iowa State Daily

Mayor of Ames John Haila listens to Ames resident Nitin Gadia on the topic of the Campustown Plaza concept at the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening. 

Kara Gravert

Student Government held a joint meeting with members of the Ames City Council to discuss lease terms on Wednesday in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.

Student Government members got right to the heart of an issue most students face: affordable and reliable housing. Students pushed for the requirement of landlords to offer short-term renting in their leases, expressing the burden students face to keep themselves housed throughout the academic year.

“This is really a state issue, not a city issue,” said John Haila, mayor of Ames. “You need to talk to your state senators. We are really kind of powerless.”

However, city council members also expressed sympathy for students while citing the importance of lease gaps.

“It is a big challenge and we are sympathetic to both sides,” Haila said. “We want landlords to keep the property up, and we want students housed.”

Members of the Student Government suggested Airbnb as an approach to meet students needs for lease terms that better align with the university schedule.

City council member Gloria Betcher weighed in on Airbnb as a solution.

“We’re trying to balance having stock available for individuals who want to own homes as well as rent short term,” Betcher said. “We are trying to make sure that we keep the market open, but that we don’t open it up to the same problems that we’ve seen in other towns.”

Betcher voted against measures to define and expand the ability of short-term rentals to be present in Ames at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Further, the meeting sought to address the subjects of campus safety and communication methods between the city and campus.

Several weeks ago students and members of the Ames police department engaged in a Campustown Safety Walk.

“Students and PD members were divided into groups covering sections of Campustown … and took diligent notes on areas that felt unsafe,” said Ali Hoskins, ex-officio for the Ames City Council.

Haila used the moment to raise awareness around a new mobile app introduced by the City of Ames. The app, called “Ames On The Go,” allows users to report safety issues they see around Ames.

“When you sign up using your email address, you will receive a notification of any reports made within your residential area,” said David Martin, Ward Three representative for the Ames City Council.

Haila also acknowledged the seemingly ineffective communication between the city and the students, noting a recent traveling Smithsonian exhibit that failed to garner student attention.

“If you forge the bond, the communication will follow,” Sen. Sandeep Stanely responded. “We will see increased communication once those bonds are formed.”