First passage of rental occupancy to be considered at council meeting


K Rambo/Iowa State Daily

Toole Design Group makes their presentation to the Ames City Council on September 19, 2017.

Alex Connor

After months of a contentious debate regarding Ames’ next step with rental occupancy, the city council will consider Tuesday an ordinance that, in some cases, will permit five adults to live in rental housing. 

The current rental ordinance restricts occupancy in single-family rental homes and duplexes to three non-familial individuals. However, the Iowa Legislature passed a law earlier this year that restricts cities from limiting housing based on familial status. 

Since then—with input from staff, neighborhood associations, landlords and students—the city has been working to draft a new ordinance that can go into effect ahead of Jan. 1, 2018.

The proposed ordinance the council will be considering Tuesday is based on the following provisions:

  • To 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.
  • To 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-parking spaces equal to the number of bedrooms
  • To cap rental housing occupancy at five adults

The ordinance must be voted on three times before it is enacted, which oftentimes takes place over subsequent meetings. However, the council does have the ability to waive additional readings after the first passage.

After the Dec. 12 meeting, there is only one more meeting where the council could pass the ordinance in advance of the Jan. 1, 2018 deadline.

The council was going to originally hear the first proposal of the ordinance during its Nov. 28 meeting, but postponed its passage after the Iowa State Student Government created a petition—with more than 3,000 signatures—opposing the ordinance. 

The language of the petition read the proposed ordinance was “purposely designed to discriminate against students” and Student Government opposed its tie to parking spaces and its ability to cap renters at five per house.

However, after speaking with the city staff directly about concerns, Vice President Cody Smith said they were wrong regarding some aspects of the petition—specifically that it is discriminating against students and could increase rental rates. 

“We made a mistake. We are looking forward to moving on and from this point on, rebuilding our relationship with the city. That’s really important to us,” Smith said. 

Smith, however, said Student Government is still opposed to the ordinance’s tie to parking. 

For the council, it maintains the purpose of the ordinance—and the reason it is drafting a new ordinance to replace the three non-familial one—is to preserve the integrity of its neighborhoods.

“[It’s to] maintain a blend that makes it a community in which we all want to live,” Campbell said. 

The Ames City Council will meet Tuesday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at City Hall in the City Council Chambers.

Previous reporting: