Bronwyn’s Council Preview, September 12, 2017: Rental Occupancy Law Change

Tonight's Ames council meeting marks the beginning of the city's response to a controversial new state law overturning local control of rental occupancy limits

The Ames City Council meeting starts at 6 p.m. The agenda includes:

Item 22: Motion directing staff regarding regulating occupancy in rental units

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that this topic is one of the issues to watch this year. This agenda item is the beginning of our response to the state’s recent decision to prohibit limiting rental occupancy based on familial status. Ames, like many college communities, limited rental properties to only three unrelated adults in order to reduce the incentive to convert owner-occupied homes to rental properties. Without it in place, neighborhoods (especially near campus) are concerned about an increase in conversion of owner-occupied homes to rental properties. The council is considering the following actions: increased inspection and nuisance enforcement, limiting the percentage of rental units within a certain area, and incentivizing conversion of rentals back to single-family units. We solicited feedback both from neighborhood representatives and landlords. As you’d imagine, the neighborhood representatives favor limiting the percentage of rentals within an area, in addition to limiting rentals based on number of individuals. (As long as we don’t specify that those individuals be unrelated, we can still limit all rentals to, say, four adults total.) The landlords weren’t crazy about either of those ideas, and would rather we step up enforcement of nuisance and inspections complaints, or limit rental properties to the number of adults per bedroom. (If you rented out a five-bedroom house, for example, you could rent to five adults.)

Item 23: Campus and Community Commission

This new commission — C3 as I like to call it — was formed to investigate issues of common interest to Iowa State University and the city. Now that they have convened, they brainstormed topics and are suggesting three priorities: parking in Campustown, a public gathering space in Campustown, and inclusiveness. (Inclusiveness, as expounded on by the commission, includes landlord-tenant relations, “welcoming” and “inclusiveness” of downtown and Campustown, retention of graduates, community connectibility, and Rent Smart Ames utilization.) The council needs to give the go-ahead on these priorities or modify them.

Item 24: Staff report on capital funding for human services agencies

In February, the council earmarked $500,000 for this capital grant program for human service agencies. Now the council needs to decide some finer points of the program, like the required match percentage, what types of capital equipment are eligible, and minimum and maximum grant amounts. In addition, United Way has expressed interest in partnering with the city and administering the program.

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Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen
Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen is an at-large member of the Ames City Council. She is also a manager at Wheatsfield Cooperative and the co-owner of Cycles Recycling.