Divisive rental ordinance passes, concerns raised regarding possible ramifications


Mikinna Kerns/Iowa State Daily

City Counsel Member Amber Correri listens to Ames residents during the City Counsel Meeting Nov. 14. The majority of the meeting was spent Clarifying regarding the city council’s direction pertaining to limiting occupancy in rental units.

Alex Connor

Despite concerns regarding unintended and negative consequences reiterated by council members Tuesday night, the six-member body approved the third and final reading of a contested ordinance relating to Ames’ rental housing. 

The ordinance, No. 4332, has been in the works for months. During that process, the city heard from a variety of stakeholders including neighborhood associations and homeowners to landlords and students on what they felt the direction of the ordinance should take. 

Ultimately, in a 5-1 vote with Councilwoman Amber Corrieri dissenting, the council approved the ordinance with intentions to hold a workshop in February to work through issues that may arise because of the newly passed legislation.

“I will continue to vote against the ordinance as I have,” Corrieri said. “But I am encouraged that the council has come full circle and is committed to looking to further changes.”

At the second reading in December — under a different Mayor and council — concern was expressed regarding the pace of the passage and the fact that the ordinance had moved away from just impacting single-family and duplex rentals in low-density zoning districts to the entire city. 

The reason for the newly-crafted rental occupancy ordinance, which will in some cases expand occupancy in a single rental to five people compared to the previous restriction of three, was due to an Iowa Legislature decision prohibiting cities from limiting housing based on familial status. 

This meant, on Jan. 1, 2018, Ames’ current ordinance which states “no more than three unrelated people can live in a single-family rental home” was no longer compliant with the state.

This bothered Councilwoman Gloria Betcher, who said she was uncomfortable with the “legal limbo” Ames has been in for the past nine days. 

“I don’t like living in a world where we don’t have an ordinance. Places and things could get worse before it gets better,” Betcher said. 

The ordinance, effective Tuesday, will:

  • Use the city assessor’s bedroom count as the baseline for the number of bedrooms in a rental house; or the numbers established through the most recent rental inspection—whichever is most recent.
  • Adopt a limit of three people for one and two bedroom homes; and to have three, four and five-bedroom homes equal to the number of adult occupants
  • One, two and three-bedroom rental houses are required to have two off-street parking spaces, whereas four or above rental houses must have the number of off-street parking spaces equal to the number of bedrooms
  • Cap rental housing occupancy at five adults

It was amended at the December meeting, however, that the parking provision expires at the end of the moratorium — which also prevents landlords from obtaining new letters of compliance for their rentals — on April 30, 2018.

The council said they will continue to look into issues, such as this, during their February workshop. Other concerns relating to housing and the ordinance include: Airbnb, multiple code violations, neighborhood rental concentrations, and the possibility, or lack thereof, to increase the number of bedrooms and parking spaces to properties.

“The goal is to get a ‘good, inclusive list’,” Mayor John Haila said. 

He added, specifically regarding the workshop: “We’re not going to go in and strike down the ordinance and rewrite the whole thing… we’re looking forward to engage all the stakeholders, including students.”

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