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Iowa City puts temporary hold on rental permits, expansions

The Iowa City Council has passed an ordinance placing a six-and-a-half month moratorium on new rental permits and building permits that would enlarge existing rental properties, the city announced yesterday.

The Iowa City Council has passed an ordinance placing a six-and-a-half month moratorium on new rental permits and building permits that would enlarge existing rental properties, the city announced yesterday.

The move comes as the city faces a new state law prohibiting local governments from restricting home occupancy based on familial relationships between tenants in residential rentals. That law will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

During the temporary hold, the city will study how to mitigate the impacts of increased rental housing and occupancy level on neighborhoods. Staff will consider factors including safety, stability and affordability, as well as urban congestion, conflicts between rental and owner-occupied housing, and the demands placed on municipal services.

"When you start having unlimited occupancy, then you get into issues about parking, about trash, about noise and other kind of nuisance things," said Doug Boothroy, the city's director of neighborhood and development services. Student housing tends to drive up the price of housing, which makes it unaffordable for other families, because they can bid more for the house in terms of renting it than a family can. At some point, then, that neighborhood becomes destabilized in terms of supporting schools."

In a memo to council members earlier this month, City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said that since the passage of the new state law, the city has received a surge in permit applications to add bedrooms to existing rental properties. A total of 40 permit applications have been submitted for 35 properties to add bedrooms to existing rental properties, the memo stated. In comparison, over the past two years, the city has issued an average of less than five permits per year for adding bedrooms to rental single-family and duplex units.

The moratorium will be in effect until Dec. 31, and covers a portion of the city generally bounded by Scott Boulevard on the east, Interstate 80 on the north, the Iowa River and Mormon Trek Boulevard on the west, and Highways 1/6 on the south in Iowa City. It is an area containing the older neighborhoods and highly developed part of the city, but not growth areas on the far west, south and east sides of the city, according to Ms. Dilkes' memo.

It does not apply to rental permit renewals, and is only for single-family and duplex zones.

Boothroy said the legislature passed the law without considering its impact on college communities, such as Ames, Iowa City, and Cedar Falls.

For more information about the moratorium, and to view a video presentation and supporting documents, visit icgov.org/permitmoratorium.

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