Council approves housing law change

by TaLeiza Calloway –

Property owners who are having a hard time selling their homes can now temporarily rent them under certain conditions after a recent city council vote.

Council members on Feb. 21 voted 5-0 to amend the city’s R-1 Single-Family Residential zoning restrictions to allow a non-owner-occupied rental license for a property owner who has tried to sell his or her home without success. The amendment requires proof the home has been on the market for at least three months and the property owner has lived there for at least two years as a primary residence. The initial proposal was for the property owner to live there for at least one year, but city officials thought the stay should be longer than one year.

If those conditions are met, a homeowner can make application for a one-time two-year interim-use permit. The permit is not renewable after the two-year period but must be renewed for the second year. That change marks the second revision to the city’s R-1 ordinance.

The first change to the R-1 Single-Family Residential ordinance came in December 2011 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.

The recent change grew from a recommendation from a rental-housing committee and the planning commission. St. Joseph City Council member Steve Frank questioned whether those future renters would be aware of the R-1 codes. He said he was also concerned about the perspective of residents who moved into a neighborhood for a certain lifestyle and will now live in rental properties. Frank argued there are illegal rentals in the area that need to be addressed.

Council and staff explained there are processes in place to handle noise and code violations. St. Joseph Police Chief Pete Jansky said the recent adoption of the social-host ordinance, for example, is one tool that can help if problems arise with renters.

St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz said the city’s planning commission plans to revisit the change in 18 months to see how it’s working.

TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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