Rental homes might face additional restrictionsThe Duluth City Council is exploring new ways to slow the proliferation of student rental housing in neighborhoods once dominated by quiet, single-family homes.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth City Council is exploring new ways to slow the proliferation of student rental housing in neighborhoods once dominated by quiet, single-family homes.
Councilor Patrick Boyle introduced an ordinance Monday that would limit landlords who convert single-family homes into multi-tenant properties to a maximum of four bedrooms in the future. Boyle said he also hoped to close a loophole in the current rental ordinance that has allowed some landlords to have property owners add bedrooms to their homes before they sell them. The rental operator then is able to obtain a license for more renters than the rental ordinance would otherwise allow.
“If someone buys a traditional three-bedroom house, we don’t want to see it become a six-bedroom rental. It should be consistent with the neighborhood,” Boyle said.
Barb Montee, president of the Duluth Landlords Association, warned the restrictions would lower the supply of rental housing in a market that already suffers from a low supply. She also said she found it interesting the matter was coming before the council at the end of the academic year, when many college students are preoccupied with packing up and leaving town for the summer. She noted that students had packed council chambers in the past to oppose rental restrictions.
Boyle’s new ordinance, which was written with the help of Keith Hamre, Duluth’s new director of planning and construction services, was pulled by city administration Monday for clarification ensuring that existing rental properties with more than four bedrooms would be allowed to continue uninterrupted operations, thanks to a grandfather clause.
Still, the council positioned itself to put new rental rules in place by voting 6-3 to pass a resolution directing the city Planning Department to begin work to establish a higher education overlay district in certain areas of the city where the density of multi-tenant rental housing has increased at the expense of traditional single-family homes.
Voting against the resolution were Councilors Jay Fosle, Linda Krug and Emily Larson. Both Krug and Larson said they wanted more information before they were comfortable supporting an overlay district.
Councilor Jim Stauber said the directive simply defines an area of concern, opening the door for the council “to decide whether future restrictions are in order.”
In calling for support of the overlay district, Stauber said: “I feel a true sense of urgency to move this process forward … so we can determine what is acceptable for this district and what is not.”
Councilor Sharla Gardner referred to the overlay district as being in the planning stages and called it “just another tool in our toolbox.”
She acknowledged more work needs to be done.
“We haven’t determined to what degree this is a problem, and we don’t want to overreact,” Gardner said. But she said having an overlay district defined would allow the council to react more nimbly if it determines there’s a problem that needs fixing.
Montee said she recognizes the changing face of campus neighborhoods has caused friction and challenges for the City Council.
“I understand they have struggled with this for years,” she said. “But I want them to stop treating Duluth like a gated community.”