Ames City Council provides a preliminary plan for housing

Ames City Council voted to repeal the existing mask ordinance effective May 28, and a resolution was passed to suspend enforcement of the ordinance until that time. 

Amber Mohmand

Ames City Council discussed plans to provide affordable housing to the community at Tuesday evening’s meeting.

In the meeting, it discussed the vacation lodging ordinance, funding for the Brookside Park Restroom Project and a preliminary plan to transfer areas that have rental housing to homeownership. 

The Planning Division for the city of Ames provided incentives toward a conversion of single-family homes from rental properties to homeownership.

The project is designed to advance affordable housing goals, while others prioritize improvements in housing stock regardless of income levels. Financial incentives vary greatly in the amount and funding source.

“We’ve had the affordable housing goal for six years that we’ve been on Council and I don’t know if we’ve really done anything substantive to address this,” said Amber Corrieri, at-large representative for the Council. 

The Council discussed the preliminary goals for the conversion and divided it into four issues. 

The Council first moved to provide reimbursement for rehabilitation work, up to an established incentive limit, which the Council said is intended to provide an incentive to the property owners to convert.

It also addressed if the funding would be provided through grants or loans. The Council chose not to take any actions on the second issue, leaving this option to city of Ames Planning and Housing Director Kelly Diekmann to decide. 

The third issue provided primary options for financial incentives pertaining to rental conversions, which the Council also took no action on, leaving the option to Diekmann.

The fourth issue included household eligibility and determined if the primary purpose would be for rehabilitation or acquisition. The Council said they are interested in both and will look into what can be done.

“I’ve got areas in my neighborhood that are 56 percent to 70 percent rental; there are pockets where the imbalance [between rental and homeowners’ properties] is tremendous,” said Gloria Betcher, Ward 1 representative. “Some of the reasons for that are that the homes are being purchased as homes for students at Iowa State, parents purchasing homes or people buying homes for vacation rental.”

The Council then moved to discuss an ordinance pertaining to vacation lodging in Ames.

The current vacation lodging of the residential units, such as Airbnbs, “has the potential to be incompatible with surrounding residential uses,” according to the city of Ames.

The Council voted to move for the second passage for Chapter 13, 29 and 13 to establish definitions, standards and enforcement procedures for licensing of guest lodging in specified zoning districts.

Additionally, the Council moved to award the Brookside Restroom Project to Henkel Construction for $295,000. 

The restrooms were damaged by a fire in 2018, and the current renovation plans will include four gender-neutral bathrooms compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Due to the differences in estimates between the architect and the bidding contractors, the Council moved for alternative one on Oct. 8, which accepted the report of the bids but did not award a contract for the time being.

Keith Abraham, director of parks and recreation, said he spoke with the architect about the bid difference. 

“[The architect] felt that the bids were reasonable with some of the items that were tied with the costs and so on,” Abraham said. 

The Council then moved to approve the use of $6,525 in savings from the completed Brookside Park Path Lighting Project, $6,882 in savings from the completed Maintenance Building Electrical Update and up to $81,805 from the Park Development for the Brookside Park Restroom Project. 

The Council will also have its joint meeting with Iowa State Student Government 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.