A letter to the council from Mayor Ness

Councilors,

In your weekend packet you will receive an new version of the Rental Reform Ordinance.  I have been speaking to many property owners and neighbors about their thoughts on the new rental reform proposal.  When I have the chance to explain the ordinance, there has been wide-spread support for the concept.  But there was one element of the first proposal that needed to be addressed – I think I’ve come up with the solution that will strengthen the ordinance for both neighbors and property owners!

The new ordinance will include the concept of a “Single-Tenant Rental License (STRL)” which will provide property owners an alternative to the standard rental license in which we propose to limit the number of tenants to the number of bedrooms.  A single tenant could be either 1) a single person, 2) a couple in a romantic relationship, or 3) a family of related persons.  In essence, a STRL operates as if it were a owner-occupied single family home.

Benefit to Property Owners:  A STRL would not be subject to the per-bedroom fee and would not be subject to the parking requirements.  The STRL option offers property owners a choice between either a multi-tenant or a single-tenant option.  For those properties who cannot provide off-street parking, this provides them a way to rent their property, while at the same time protecting the neighborhood from a higher density of tenants in a property that cannot adequately provide for the needs of a multi-tenant rental.  Many landlords rent their properties to single tenants anyway – this will allow them to continue to rent to their single tenant without the need to create more parking or pay additional fees.

Benefit to the Neighborhoods:  The STRL option will reduce the density within existing rentals.  Some landlords will choose the STRL option who might otherwise rent to several tenants.  There will still be multi-tenant properties, but those properties are more likely to be the ones that can provide adequate off-street parking and that are large enough to handle higher density.

Benefit to Single Tenant Renters:  Let’s face it, the world is much different than it was 5 years ago.  Tight credit requirements, huge student loan balances, and a soft job market is putting home-ownership out of reach for those families who would have purchased a home 5 years ago.  There will be increased demand for single family homes to be rented by singles, couples, and families.  By eliminating the 300′ rule and creating the STRL, we will be providing more quality opportunities to meet this new demand for single-tenant, single-family home rentals.

Benefit to Multi-Tenant Renters:  With this Rental Reform, students and other multi-tenant renters will be more likely to find rentals that will provide adequate off-street parking, there will be a crack-down on un-safe and un-licenced bedrooms, and reduced conflict with neighbors as the over-packing of inadequately sized homes will no longer be allowed.

Councilors, I think it is important that you move to act on this ordinance and the repeal of the 300′ rule at your December 20th council meeting.  At this moment, both neighbors and landlords are saying the same thing – the fate of the 300′ rule depends on the successful passage of the Rental Reform Ordinance.  Neighbors are willing to let 300′ go, if Rental Reform is in place; landlords are willing to accept Rental Reform, if the 300′ rule is eliminated.

Passage of both of these actions on December 20th will give all parties certainty going into the new year.  They will know the rules and can start to plan for the changes that will be necessary.  If this debate is delayed into the new year, I fear that there will be endless reasons to delay a vote (including a new councilor), I worry that both sides of this issue will start to advocate for changes that benefit their side, I anticipate that the moment of compromise will be lost and we’ll find ourselves back at square one.  The longer the debate is stretched out, the more opportunity to manipulate the process (as we saw with the license run after the 300′ rule).

Right now… people are losing their homes to foreclosure because they don’t have the option to rent it out.  Families that want to rent a single family home (including the new Chancellor) find their options severely limited.  Existing rentals have 5 or 6 students crammed into a house that was originally built with only 3 bedrooms.  Landlords are renting to 4 or 5 students without providing any off-street parking.  There is currently a severe lack of enforcement capability which leads to illegal rentals.  You can solve all of these problems by taking action on Rental Reform and the 300′ Rule on December 20th.

This IS the right time to take action.

Thanks for your consideration.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Don

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