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Occupancy Bill HF161 Additional History

Additional History and Analysis of the Bill

Just one owner-occupant adult (being on title) is, apparently, at least according to the League of Cities talking points, keeping the whole neighborhood from going to the dogs?   If only those adult residents were children, they would have been afforded rights through Federal Statute.  Fair Housing Law protects against discrimination against children, but not adults except when such restrictions could be deemed reasonable, at least as stated in this 1998 HUD Memorandum.  (If you find a newer one, please let us know!)

RE: Marital Status — With housing, marital status regards “two people, cohabiting a residence”.   If just one of those two holds title, then frequently, no limitations are ascribed to how many adults can live in the home. Current ordinances tilt heavily in favor of owner-occupants, as though there were some kind of guarantee owner-occupants will maintain their property better than an investor?   Marital Status is not a protected class in Iowa (click for Table of IC 216) yet we are not seeking such a change.

Many real estate investors make a reasonable living purchasing, then renovating dilapidated housing stock from owner-occupants who haven’t maintained their property well for years, if not decades (on the author’s city block, there are 41 houses; 3 were very poorly maintained by their owner occupants for many, many years, until they were recently purchased by investors who have completely renovated those dwellings.

To claim that somehow owner-occupants should enjoy a bundle of rights, rights to which a non-owner and their rental residents should be deprived, is irrational.  They are all people, born with inalienable rights!

And, due to the law of unintended consequences, depriving a rental property of additional income is just bad business.  Rental Income is often used to keep the property in good repair, so lack of adequate income will potentially worsen the condition of existing housing stock.

Rather than deal with the limited incidents when occupants of a dwelling disturb peaceable enjoyment for local residents, what several cities have chosen is to pass ordinances forcing decreased occupancy, whenever the adult residents are unrelated.   It is “OK” to have a brother, sister, cousin, friend or friends, join in occupancy with owner-occupants  yet it becomes “not OK” if one resident’s name is missing on the title?  

These restrictive ordinances are without reason at best, and discriminatory at worst.

This bill allows housing which has adequate capacity to support more residents than “one couple”, and the ability to do so legally — regardless whether it is owner or non-owner occupied.

In other words, HF 161 promotes affordable housing, and provides rental residents the same rights as owner-occupants.

In 2014, in the Senate the bill was SF2304 (f/k/a SSB 3068) during the 2nd half of the 85th General Assembly.   Neither the House Version nor the Senate Version were brought up for floor debate.   We remain hopeful that his will not happen again in the 86th General Assembly.

—– —– —– —– —– —–  More History —– —– —– —– —– —–

A list of talking points (provided by Daryl Kruse, Legislative Chair of our two state level real estate investor associations).  We feel it was compiled to share “the facts”, sans hype, sans fear-engendering.  Mr. Kruse offers an objective rationale for the basis of our initiative.

What the bill will, and will not, do.

For some, this bill does spark an emotional response.  With increased emotions, retaining objectivity is challenging.   If you believe your living environment is threatened by a handful of additional residents in a few properties scattered around older, established neighborhoods, trust me that others feel the same about new convenience stores, box stores, malls, bars, commercial buildings, etc.   If we approach the question of housing with the thought, “cities have a responsibility to promote clean, affordable, well-maintained properties” would the homelessness situation be improved with more affordable housing, or with less?  

A version of the talking points from the League of Cities, has been compiled by their Lobbyist, Dustin Miller, which in this author’s opinion primarily serves to inflame passions with misstatements.  And, he disregards the need for affordable housing, accessible to disadvantaged populations — those with low to moderate income, the elderly, and those students who likely could not attend a university were the cost of housing more expensive.  It does so, under the guise of “protecting neighborhoods” from those “animal house-like” rental properties.

Such misconceptions, or worse, disingenuous representations perpetuate this red herring argument. Because of the potential raucous behavior of a few, we should punish the many who are innocent?

We assume Mr. Miller and client, the League of Cities, is on a mission to protect neighborhoods.  Certainly no reasonable person is in favor of destroying neighborhoods, yet the import of his line of reasoning is, “Cities would be a fine place to live, were it not for all the people living in them!”

Were all residents owner-occupants, an assumption is made that they live quietly in all neighborhoods.  That they never throw noisy parties, create a trashy environment.  Surely we all know this is untrue.  Yet with non-owner occupants, the assumption is made that such residents lose all restraint.

Again, these ordinances punish the many for the sins of a few.

If the current  trend continues, cities will be allowed to discriminate against a population of unrelated adults (who happen to be rental residents) without regard to the highest and best use for property.  A 4-Bedroom, 4-Bath home can easily accommodate four adult residents, without changing zoning, if requirements for parking and trash are met, simply by using objective standards which base occupancy on square footage.

Using existing housing stock helps to reduce urban sprawl; another positive, unintended consequence.

23 other states have passed laws which accomplish the point of this bill by provisioning marital status to be a protected class.   The trend is not from 50 down to 23, but from zero up to 23 — Iowa seems behind on this trend.  (Reference IC 216 Table of Protected Classes, in Iowa).    Thus, we are actually seeking a change in policy which is the least broad.  Our means to a fair and balanced end bases the changed on familial or non-familial relationships.  Protection of “Marital Status in Housing” is a different issue.  

Through the implementation of HF161, the bill accomplishes the primary objective; legal occupancy limits would be based on objective standards.     

Historical Overview Points (sorted in reverse chronological order):

  • The 2014 Senate State Gov’t Committee passed the bill out of committee on Feb 19 (with a proposed amendment to be introduced on the Floor during debate).
  • The 2014 House Judiciary Committee passed the bill out of committee with a vote of 15-5 on Feb 14.
  • The bill was on the House Debate Calendar for Wednesday, March 13, 2013.  It was pulled in the last moments before debate.
  • The opposition appears to be mostly a few college towns, and the League of Cities.  Here is a link to  their talking points.
  • In 2013, the Study Bill (HSB9) passed out of the House Judiciary full Committee – 17-4
  • HF184 – The actual bill is very straightforward.  It seeks to eliminate discrimination based on familial or non-familial status.  Occupancy limits would be left up to zoning ordinances and housing code enforcement which provide for limits similar to the IPMC 2012 stated limits for occupancy.   (Not all municipalities in Iowa follow these quidelines exactly, though many do.   (120SF for a living room, 70SF for the 1st BR occupant, and 50SF per add’l BT occupant, etc).
  • NOTE: The IaREIA | ILA supports standards for occupancy which are consistent across the state, with the IPMC as the standard.
  • A Bill history for the current session is found in the Legislature Bill Book – the bill was p/k/a SF2300, in 2012
  • NEW Occupany Overview on municipal discrimination provided by Daryl Kruse on March 19, 2013.
  • Occupancy Bill talking points – As compiled by Daryl Kruse – Landlords of Iowa, Legislative Cmte Chair
  • Occupancy Bill Talking Points – As compiled by Joe Kelly – Our Lobbyist
  • Occupancy Bill Remarks before the House Sub-Committee – As compiled by Andrew Lietzow, Exec Dir – IaREIA | ILA
  • In 2012, the SSB 3090 passed unanimously out of Senate State Government full committee – 15-0, but was not brought up on the Senate floor for a vote.  Since it did not get passed out of the full Senate, the process was started all over again in 2013, this time in the House.
  • Des Moines Register Editorial – October, 2008 – Don’t Discriminate with ‘Family’ Zoning

Occupancy Bill History and Supporting Documentation Leading up to the Current Initiative.

Please ask your Representative and Senator to support this bill.