By Naomi Hofferber
The Iowa City City Council voted Tuesday to pass several housing-code amendments that will affect both landlords and renters in the Iowa City area. The motion carried 6-0; Councilor Pauline Taylor was absent.
Several small amendments went into place, along with a larger rental cap. The amendments come in response to state legislation banning cities from regulating housing based on familial relationships.
The rental cap would limit the number of rentals permits issued for single family and duplex homes in certain areas.
The cap was passed at 30 percent, and with that limit, such neighborhoods as College Green, Brookland, Riverfront Crossings East and West, North Side, and Bowery would not be issued more rental permits for single family and duplex units.
Those neighborhoods have rental percentages of 53 to 76 percent.
Additionally, if landlords owning units in those areas lose their permits because of a violation, another single family or duplex unit could not replace the one lost if the cap is lower than the actual percentage.
The cap was created by looking at neighborhoods deemed “healthy” and examining noise and nuisance complaints.
Councilor Susan Mims said these housing-code changes will help stabilization, particularly on the North Side, and the cap can be flexible if it becomes too restrictive.
“We can always up it if we decide to, but I think this gives us a good start, and I think this is something we are going to have to re-evaluate annually at least for the next two or three years, to see how it’s working,” Mims said.
Councilor Rockne Cole said he believes the housing changes in response to state legislation passed may benefit the community more than the old regulation did.
“I think the irony with the home-rule limitation, we now don’t have the tool to regulate these particular changes; at least in some respects, it might make the neighborhoods better,” Cole said. “I think we’re going to have a good regulatory framework.”
University of Iowa Student Government City Council liaison Ben Nelson said that while UISG generally opposed the cap, the members didn’t anticipate any immediate major issues.
“We generally took a stand against the rental cap because we didn’t feel it was a proper solution to what the problem was, and the problem was a lack of affordable housing near campus,” Nelson said.
He said the city still needs to increase the housing supply, because the current vacancy rates in the city are incredibly low, and continue with its pro-development stance.
In an article previously reported by The Daily Iowan, Austin Wu, a UI student, expressed his concerns with the cap at a Nov. 6 City Council meeting at which the cap was introduced. He said the cap could push students to live farther away from campus, making transportation and parking an issue for many.
“In the long run, it would place an artificial cap on rental supply, which would effectively create a price floor,” Wu said.
Similar rental caps have been instituted in such cities as Winona, Minnesota, where several individuals who owned homes filed a lawsuit against the rental ban, declaring it was unconstitutional to restrict property rights of homeowners.
In August 2015, the Minnesota Supreme Court dismissed the case because none of the plaintiffs still owned homes in Winona or needed a license.
In addition to the rental cap, the city introduced amendments that regulate aspects of housing like restricting the creation of paved backyards for single-family homes and duplexes, mandating bedroom-size requirements, and ensuring all rental units have deadbolts.