The Iowa City City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday to defer the rental moratorium for a second time to its next meeting on Jan. 7, 2020, in an effort to give the community more time to give their input regarding the decision.
The decision to defer came after lengthy discussion on whether or not councilors should support the moratorium’s extension to Mar. 1, 2020.
The Council voted 6-1 at its Dec. 3 meeting to defer the first consideration of the repeal of the rental moratorium to Tuesday, but the same conclusion was reached in order to give more time for consideration of its final decision.
The 10-month moratorium, enacted by city councilors in May, prevents new rental permits for single-family and duplex units in certain neighborhoods. In Iowa City, the moratorium affects neighborhoods near campus. State lawmakers passed a law this spring preventing cities from imposing rental caps on certain neighborhoods.
City Councilor Mazahir Salih was a key voice of approval in the move to defer the rental moratorium, with the support of Councilor Bruce Teague and outgoing Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton. This was Throgmorton’s last council meeting.
Teague said initially that the council needed to set “an urgency for a solution,” but later decided to vote in favor to defer.
The council also voted a 7-0 motion to pass Title 17 on the Rental Permit for Radon Testing, which requires radon testing and mitigation in single-family and duplex rental units. Despite concerns that hiring licensed testers may be expensive, it was agreed that a third party should check for the safety of the locations.
Iowa City City Councilor Susan Mims said that when considering the health and safety of individuals in Iowa City, radon testing needs to be done by a third party.
According to Iowa City City Council documents, comments about the rental moratorium include that it should be repealed in light of the radon-testing ordinance and single-family site development standards.
Before the decision to defer the moratorium, City Councilor John Thomas asked the council to support the extension of the rental moratorium to Mar. 1, 2020 in order to “further investigate” issues regarding the diversification of demographics and affordability of Iowa City neighborhoods.
However, Iowa City community members commented on their support in accelerating the moratorium’s end.
Community member Bruce Ayati said he has until Feb. 7, 2020 to get a rental permit for an old, damaged home next door to his current residence, but is running into issues regarding the rental agreement.
Unlike University of Iowa students who may be looking to rent this home, Ayati said, he will really care about the neighborhood and is willing to make significant repairs to the home.
“You have unintended consequences when you have heavy stances like a moratorium,” he said. “I’m sorry, you’re not going to come up with anything in that extra month.”
Ayati said that he does not want to live next to a fraternity-owned home, and the city needs to address ways to ensure that homeowners are respectful toward the rest of the neighborhood.
“There’s got to be other ways to do this than get in the way of people trying to do the right thing,” he said.
Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin said that due to the extensive focus on this moratorium, there is concern that other planning matters may suffer. He said that City Council staff need to be clear on where they should focus and allocate their time.