Government

Iowa City Council to vote on ending rental moratorium

Iowa City housing inspector assistant Matt Wagner makes notes on a tablet July 22 in Iowa City. The Iowa City Council is considering ending its 10-month moratorium on new rental permits several months early. (The Gazette)
Iowa City housing inspector assistant Matt Wagner makes notes on a tablet July 22 in Iowa City. The Iowa City Council is considering ending its 10-month moratorium on new rental permits several months early. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Council will consider ending a 10-month moratorium on new rental permits several months early.

On the council’s agenda for its Tuesday meeting is an ordinance to repeal the moratorium that began May 30. The moratorium was scheduled to end March 1.

The council implemented the moratorium on new rental permits for single-family and duplex properties in core neighborhoods this spring after the Legislature ruled that cities could not use or adopt rental caps. The city previously had implemented a 30 percent cap on single-family and duplex rental permits in an effort to stabilize and preserve the character of core neighborhoods.

Now, with two city actions pending approval and limited additional options, city leaders are proposing to end the moratorium.

“Our available tools to help shape the future of neighborhoods have been diminished by the loss of local control,” city manager Geoff Fruin said.

Tuesday night’s initial vote on the ordinance will coincide with the second vote on two other measures proposed by city staff to promote safety in the neighborhoods and maintain their character. At its last meeting, the City Council approved the first consideration of a code amendment addressing paving in front of single-family and duplex properties.

Senior housing inspector Stan Laverman said some properties have paved spaces designated to be used as a patio, grilling space or basketball court — but tenants are using those spaces for parking in violation of city code. The new code amendment would require new paved areas to be at least 9 feet away from a conforming parking space or aisle.

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“We’re trying to eliminate those de facto parking spots that end up in the front yard that really change the characteristics of the neighborhood,” Laverman previously told The Gazette.

The second measure is an ordinance requiring radon testing for all single-family detached structures and duplexes before a rental permit is issued or renewed. Tracy Hightshoe, director of Neighborhood and Development Services, said radon testing typically had not been done with rental properties.

“(Renters) should have the same type of safety as every other house, whether it’s a rental or owner-occupied,” Hightshoe said. “It’s just something that’s needed.”

The two new measures are part of wider changes implemented by the city in recent years, including limiting the number of bedrooms in single-family and duplex properties, setting minimum habitable space requirements, moving to annual inspections for certain types of rental properties and hiring more city staff to meet those needs.

“Iowa City has made a number of regulatory changes and increased enforcement of nuisance violations to help ensure that our neighborhoods and properties remain safe, attractive and attainable for our entire population,” Fruin said.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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