Iowa City Council delays vote on lifting rental moratorium

Iowa City Council member Rockne Cole  during a council work session at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa City Council member Rockne Cole during a council work session at City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council opted Tuesday to delay a vote on lifting a rental permit moratorium for two more weeks.

City staff had recommended an ordinance repealing the moratorium, finding that between existing city actions, two pending measures and a lack of options due to restrictions by the state, there was little else they could do to preserve the character of the city’s core neighborhoods. However, a majority of the council wanted to ensure no stone was left unturned before repealing the moratorium.

The rental permit moratorium on single-family and duplex properties in core neighborhoods was put into place this spring in response to the state legislature removing cities’ abilities to use or adopt rental caps. Iowa City has previously relied upon rental caps in an effort to stabilize its neighborhoods.

While praising the actions taken by city staff — including new measures requiring radon testing in rental properties and limiting parking spaces in front yards — City council member Rockne Cole he wanted to make sure all options were considered.

“We felt we could explore even a little bit more,” Cole said.

The deferral was not universally approved, with City council member Susan Mims opposing.

“Staff, I think, has done a really good job of looking at what their options are,” she said. “They don’t feel there are any other options.”

Mims said a deferral at this point didn’t “make any sense” to her. With three readings of the ordinance required, community members would still have had time to come forward with new ideas to consider. She said the second or third vote could have been deferred, if necessary. Mims said she feels an obligation to lift the moratorium if there is nothing left to be done so people seeking a rental permit are able to obtain one.

“If we’re not goin to do anything more, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to people who might want to get a rental permit,” she said.


Cole, however, said he thinks the council “needed a little more time” to explore their options. He noted the moratorium, which went into place May 30 and is scheduled to end March 1, isn’t being extended nor will it be.

The council received several emails from citizens asking for the moratorium to remain in place for the time being.

The first vote on repealing the moratorium is now scheduled for Dec. 17. Assuming votes on the moratorium are not collapsed, the earliest the temporary rental permit ban could be lifted is Jan. 21.

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