by TaLeiza Calloway
When it comes to rental housing in the city of St. Joseph, a new committee will assist city officials in future decisions on improvements, after a council vote July 19.
Council members unanimously approved forming a rental-housing group to help evaluate the city’s rental ordinance and propose an amendment. St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz previously commissioned an ad hoc committee to do similar work earlier.
The difference between the groups is that the new rental-housing group can make recommendations to the city council.
“This committee has been sanctioned by the council,” city administrator Judy Weyrens said.
The new group will consist of five members. There will be two from the rental sector, two from core rental neighborhoods and the mayor, Weyrens said. Once appointed, they will have three months to come up with an amendment to the ordinance.
The mayor’s housing committee met twice to evaluate rental restrictions in the R1 zoning district and recommended city staff consider alternatives to the city’s R1 zoning district under certain conditions. City staff warned that creating licenses based on circumstances can lead to discriminatory housing.
The St. Joseph Planning Commission reviewed the comments of both the committee and staff and recommended the establishment of the new committee to draft an amendment.
The first change to the R-1 Single Family Residential ordinance came in December of last year when an exception was made for deployed military personnel who own rental properties. City law requires owners of residences to live in the property being rented. Residents can now apply for an interim-use permit that will be valid only during deployment and active duty. The permit will be renewed annually with an initial term not to exceed two years.
Elected officials are expected to appoint the members of the new group at their next council meeting. The next city council meeting is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2 at St. Joseph City Hall.