Government

Iowa City Council to vote on rental moratorium

People walk by the Iowa City City Hall on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. (Gazette File Photo)
People walk by the Iowa City City Hall on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. (Gazette File Photo)

IOWA CITY — For the second time in two years, the Iowa City Council will consider a moratorium on new rental permits for single-family and duplex properties in certain neighborhoods in the city.

The City Council is scheduled to meet Wednesday. If the moratorium is approved, it would last until March 7, 2020.

Earlier this month, the Iowa Legislature passed Senate File 447, which prohibits cities from adopting or enforcing rental permit caps. Currently, the city does not allow more than 30 percent of the single-family or duplex properties in neighborhoods near the University of Iowa to be rentals.

While the SF 447 has not yet been signed into law, the moratorium is necessary to prevent a rush of new rental permit applications while the city considers its next steps, said Simon Andrew, assistant to the city manager.

“We don’t get that many (rental applications) in a typical year,” Andrew said. “The fear is we’ll get a bunch right away after the state law is changed before we have time to update the ordinance.”

This is not the first time a moratorium has been put in place. In 2017, the council approved a similar measure. That year, a new state law prevented cities from regulating occupancy based on familial status, which is previously how the city controlled the amount of rental properties in certain neighborhoods.

The city adopted the 30 percent rental cap in response to the 2017 legislation.

Andrew said regulating the amount of rental properties in many of the city’s older, core neighborhoods is necessary because they weren’t designed to support high-density student housing. Those neighborhoods, such as College Green and Northside, don’t have adequate parking or other infrastructure to support more rental housing, he said.

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“We’re just going to press pause on issuing new rental permits until we devise a replacement ordinance,” Andrew said, noting rentals could be further regulated by parking or building code requirements.

The council could see some push back on the moratorium, however.

“It’s illegal,” said Mike Oliveira, owner of Prestige Properties LLC, a rental agency in Iowa City. “Someone is going to have to challenge that.”

Oliveira challenged the legality of the 2017 moratorium, arguing the issue should have gone before the Planning and Zoning Commission or required a public hearing. That matter still is in court, Oliveira said Tuesday.

Oliveira said he’s strongly against the rental cap. He also has issues with the city’s process for issuing permits and violations against landlords, arguing property owners aren’t properly notified when a violation occurs.

“It’s an all-out war against landlords,” he said.

Oliveira said he plans to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

“The city staff and city manager, in my opinion, need to take a look at improving the relationship with landlords, rather than doing the things they’re doing,” he said.

l Comments: (319) 398-8238; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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