City Council passes ordinances allowing alterations to rental properties
East Lansing City Council unanimously adopted Ordinances 1380 and 1382 on nonconforming use properties Wednesday night after a public hearing and nearly an hour of discussion, following months of committee research and planning commission work.
The ordinances pertain to rental properties in single-family districts in the city that previously, under the nonconforming ruling, could not create additional space to improve the property. The two ordinances now allow “structural alterations to the interior” of these rental units for up to 20 percent of the floor area.
First introduced in 1997 with Ordinance 900, nonconforming housing came from the creation of the single-family districts. The rental properties licensed for more than a family or two unrelated individuals became nonconforming and could no longer change the structure.
Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier said in the meeting she was unsure of supporting the new ordinances.
“I’m torn with supporting this at all,” Beier said. “I really would like Ordinance 900 to work, which would over time make it more likely these houses would convert back to owner-occupied.”
However, she said she would follow the recommendation of the nonconforming committee because every group affected was represented.
President of Prime Housing Group Nancy Marr spoke in support of the ordinances at the public hearing. She said landlords support the ordinances because they allow landlords to provide better student housing.
“That’s really what the landlords would like, to provide excellent quality housing just like the owner-occupied (housing) can,” Marr said. “They don’t want to increase density, they just want to improve the housing stock.”
East Lansing resident and rental property owner Mark Fisk also came to the public hearing to support the ordinances. He said these ordinances will allow landlords to make improvements to their properties without causing any problems for city zoning.
“In my opinion, the ordinances before you are common sense,” he said to the council. “They would allow reasonable improvements and reinvestments in rental properties without increasing density. ... While not everything I would have wanted in the ordinances, they are definitely a step in the right direction.”
ASMSU Vice President of Governmental Affairs Alex Noffsinger agreed. He told City Council while these ordinances are appropriate, more can still be done.
“Ordinance 1382, while not enough, represents a step in the right direction,” Noffsinger said. “That’s what these ordinances are, not the end of this policy discussion and debate, but a step in the right direction for us.”