City Council calls workshop on limiting rental occupancy

Maggie Curry

City Council will have a special community workshop this Tuesday at 6 p.m. to discuss rental occupancy.

Council member Tim Gartin shared on the Facebook community page Ames People that “it would be particularly helpful to receive feedback from renters, advocates for affordable housing, landlords, and owners in impacted neighborhoods” on the change in rental laws.

This past spring the Iowa Legislature amended the Iowa Code to prohibit a city from regulating occupancy of residential rental property based upon familial or nonfamilial relationships, beginning January 1, 2018.

Previous rental codes in Ames limited the number of unrelated persons in a rental unit.

A staff report shared by Gartin outlines the following possibilities: 

Limit the concentration of rental units in a specified geographic area.

This approach is being used in various cities outside of Iowa and has been approved by the courts, according to the staff report. This option would only prevent an increase in the number of rental units in an area.

Limit the number of adults that can inhabit a rental unit.

More and more children are returning home to live temporarily with their parents, or remain with their parents past the age of 18, and many grandparents are living with their adult children because of the high cost of long-term care.

Limit occupancy in rental units to a specified amount of square footage per person.

Choosing the square footage is the problem. Building codes indicate that a very small minimum square footage is required per person, according to the staff report. They could take the average square footage for a single family home in Ames and divide this number by the average family size in Ames and use the resulting square footage. The larger the house, the more renters that would be allowed to live in it.

Limit occupancy based on the number of off-street parking spaces.

The number of off-street parking spaces would have to increase from the current parking requirements for rental units in low density residential areas, according to the staff report. In addition, to make sure rear yards are not totally paved to accommodate this new off-street parking requirement, a maximum percentage for paving the backyard must be established.

Limit occupancy in rental units based on a multi-tiered approach.

This would be the “all of the above” option. For example, the city would limit occupancy to no more than two persons, 18 or older, per bedroom or a total of five adults AND increase the off-street parking requirements for rental units in low density residential areas, with limitations on paving a certain percentage of the rear yards AND limit occupancy in low density residential areas based on some yet to be determined square footage per person.

The workshop will also provide an update on the Fats, Oils, and Grease Ordinance implementation. In summary, the ordinance says to not put fats, oils or grease down your sink. Use the trash instead. According to the ordinance, accumulation of fats, oils, and grease, particularly from commercial kitchens, restaurants, and all other food service establishments, can contribute to line blockages or spills in the sewer system.