University Towns Fight to Keep Noisy Students Out of Quiet Neighborhoods

Jan 19, 2017

Representatives of university towns are back at the capitol this year, trying to get relief from loud and drunken student parties that are disrupting life in residential areas.  

They oppose a bill that pits landlords against residents who want peace and quiet for their single-family neighborhoods.     

Some Iowa communities, especially college towns, have passed ordinances to limit occupancy to three unrelated adults, so students don’t crowd into houses in single family neighborhoods, contributing to traffic and noise.      

Houses like that are a magnet for massive parties

An organization known as Landlords of Iowa backs a bill to do away with those ordinances.

“That affects us,” said lobbyist Joe Kelly.  “That's more income that we could have.”

Representatives of college towns as well as the Iowa League of Cities oppose the bill, arguing the ordinances help preserve the integrity of single-family neighborhoods.

Mayor Anne Campbell says under an Ames ordinance only three unrelated adults can share a house.    

That's more income that we could have

She says in her neighborhood near campus, police are still called to break up noisy parties.

“Even with this ordinance houses like that are a magnet for massive parties that are not contained inside but outside,” Campbell said.  “This is common behavior I’m ashamed to say in university neighborhoods.”  

In 2007, the Ames ordinance survived a constitutional challenge before the Iowa Supreme Court.  

Representatives of college towns say such neighborhoods are also plagued with traffic and parking issues.   

Landlords say the ordinances should go after those problems, not the number of renters.

“We think property should be looked at one by one,” Joe Kelly said.  “Can it meet the parking ordinances, or whatever.” 

In addition to landlords and other property owners, the bill is backed by the ACLU of Iowa which opposes the limits  on renters.

“This is discrimination on the basis of family relationships,” said lobbyist Pete McRoberts.