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East Lansing approves restrictions on new rentals in Glencairn neighborhood

A picture of a wooden side is in the foreground, behind it is a grass field with a soccer net. Some trees and homes are visible in the background
Courtesy of East Lansing
Glencairn Park

East Lansing is blocking new rental properties from opening in a portion of the Glencairn neighborhood.

The City Council voted 4-1 on an ordinance to limit new rentals for more than 200 properties west of the city's downtown.

The measure comes after more than two-thirds of residents signed a petition asking for a rental restriction overlay district.

A city ordinance allows restrictions on new rental licenses "to protect the privacy of residents and to minimize noise, congestion, and nuisance impacts."

Councilmember Mark Meadows, who served on the council that created the restriction policy, said the city should respect the results of the petition.

“People in these neighborhoods have a democratic process to establish a zoning within their neighborhoods that restricts rental licensing," Meadows said. "And I think it's something that we should be proud of.”

Some residents came to Tuesday's public hearing to support the policy, expressing concerns that nearby properties would be used for student housing and short-term rentals.

Beverly Bonning, who lives near Glencairn and in a rent-restricted neighborhood, told the council that blocking new rental licenses would provide stability in the area's housing stock, keeping properties available for families and potential homeowners.

"Particularly for first time homebuyers in East Lansing, it's essential that the city maintain a pool of affordable homes for purchase," she said. "Your approval of an overlay district tonight, we hope will maintain the pool of affordable homes for first time homebuyers."

Some residents spoke against the restrictions, arguing it would reduce options for renters and homeowners looking to lease their properties.

"I do not believe that the people that have lived in the neighborhood since the times of it being a redline district who pay the lowest tax rate and who will not be alive in 10, 15 or 20 years should be able to shackle young families with not being able to decide what to do with their own properties, now or in the future," said Mike French.

Dana Watson, the lone council member to vote against the measure, said the rent restriction will make it harder for people to move to East Lansing.

“This area is unaffordable, And it is very difficult to find a place to live, to rent or to own if you don't make above a certain income,” she said.

Councilmembers who supported the rental restrictions acknowledged a need for more rental units to serve families and low-to-moderate-income tenants.

"But the shortage of that is not due to...our rental restriction properties. It's due to the market that we live in," said Councilmember Erik Altmann. "We could sunset all the overlays in the city tomorrow, and we wouldn't get a whole lot more family-oriented detached rentals. We would get a lot of student rentals and we'd get a lot of party rentals, because that's where the money is."

Restrictions on new rentals take immediate effect. The Glencairn neighborhood has a handful of existing rentals that will continue to operate.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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