Iowa City City Council unanimously votes to repeal rental moratorium

Following a second consideration of a rental moratorium, Iowa City City Council lifted the ordinance in a 7-0 vote.


Nichole Harris

Iowa City mayor Bruce Teague presents Lemme Elementary school students Abigail Sigafoose, Ellen ‘Katina’ Stadtlander, and Mark Elwer with student leadership awards at the Iowa City City Council meeting on January 21, 2020.

Hannah Rovner, News Reporter

Iowa City City Councilors unanimously voted Tuesday to lift a controversial 10-month moratorium on new rental permits.

The council implemented the moratorium in May 2019 to give city staff time to come up with alternative solutions to manage areas with a high concentration of rental properties after state lawmakers passed a law that invalidated the city’s previous fix — a cap on the share of rental properties that are single-family homes or duplexes in certain areas

Councilors wanted to diversify types of housing because high occupancy has an effect on housing affordability, and strains public safety, infrastructure and municipal services in the area, May moratorium documents read.

Newly inducted Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague presided over the public hearing Tuesday, and there was no public comment as this was the second consideration of repealing the moratorium.

Related: City Council approves first consideration of rental-permit moratorium

The moratorium was initially deferred by a 6-1 vote at a council meeting Dec. 23, 2019, to allow citizens extra time to generate alternative ideas for reducing the impact of a high concentration of rental housing, as previously reported by The Daily Iowan. The moratorium was deferred a second time at the council’s Dec. 17 meeting a couple weeks later.

At the council’s meeting on Dec. 3, 2019, former Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton said that he did not feel comfortable voting in opposition to end the moratorium, because he didn’t want to end it sooner than scheduled without ensuring that the public had the opportunity to explore options and share its input.

The decision allowed citizens to share their thoughts before the Dec. 17, 2019 City Council meeting, yet ultimately the council voted to defer once more.

“It is not clear to me that we can invent, over the next couple of months, a solution that the staff has not been able to identify or devise over the past seven months,” Throgmorton said at the Dec. 3 meeting.

Related: Iowa City City Council defers first consideration to repeal rental moratorium

The City Council passed an ordinance issuing a temporary moratorium on new rental permits for single-family homes and duplex units in certain neighborhoods on May 1, 2019. The council passed the moratorium a week after state lawmakers passed a law that prevented the city from placing a cap on the share of rental properties in an area, the city’s previous solution to high concentration of rentals.

The moratorium was opposed by the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students.

“We’re so quick in a university town to judge that every tenant is going to be a college student, but they’re not,” said real estate agent Adam Pretorious said in a public hearing, when the moratorium was first considered. “I think it’s important to recognize that and know that not everyone is going to be a student.”

The council previously passed mandatory radon testing and mitigation in single family and duplex rental homes, as a way to manage types of housing in certain areas.

“[At this point] we felt like we have done what we could do [in order to] lift the moratorium,” said City Councilor Susan Mims.

The second deferral of the moratorium aimed to allow newly elected City Councilors Laura Bergus and Janice Weiner to review the documents from previous meetings and the correspondence from the first deferral.

Both Bergus and Weiner agreed that they were comfortable with collapsing and passing the vote after extensive time allowed them to review the evidence of the rental cap moratorium.

“I do feel, at this moment in time, that the tools in the toolbox — we have used to the best of our knowledge and the best of our ability,” Teague said at the Dec. 3, 2019 meeting.