Rentals on the rise in Burnsville
More single-family homes are being converted
by John Gessner
The percentage of rental housing in Burnsville has crept upward, along with the number of single-family homes that have been converted to rentals.
It’s long been an official city goal to reach 70 percent home ownership in Burnsville. The city had pegged home ownership at 68 percent, but recently released 2010 U.S. Census data show it’s down to 66 percent.
Data also show that 313 single-family homes or townhomes have been converted to rentals since the 2000 Census, according to the city.
“It’s just kind of become a newer industry,” Community Development Director Jenni Faulkner said.
Officials discussed the owner-rental balance at a Jan. 27 City Council retreat.
Burnsville has 25,759 housing units, 1,476 of which are vacant. A total of 1,498 housing units were built from 2000 to 2010, only 374 of which were built as rentals.
But the city had 687 more rental units in 2010 than it did in 2000.
“Other communities around us are seeing higher increases in the amount of rental than we have,” Faulkner said. “It’s going up everywhere.”
And what’s worse – a single-family home sitting vacant in a down market or a home occupied by renters? she asked.
“But with the proliferation of more rentals, there are more problems,” Faulkner added.
Council Member Bill Coughlin said he noticed the proliferation of single-family rentals when he was a candidate door-knocking before last summer’s special council election.
On one block of $200,000 to $300,000 homes, four of eight were rental, he said.
“It just is what it is,” Coughlin said. “There’s no remedy for it. … There’s nothing we can do to change the trend.”
Council Member Dan Gustafson suggested charging a fee for rental licenses, both for apartments and single-family rentals, to cover inspection costs. Since the city launched its rental license requirement in 2005, the need for inspections of aging rental properties has grown, he said.
Many single-family rentals remain unlicensed, even though the city requires a license. Some 1,585 rentals are single-family units or townhouses or condos in buildings where the balance of the units are owner-occupied, according to the city.
The city has 600 to 700 single-family rental licenses, Faulkner said.
Gustafson called for the city to welcome higher-end apartments in a down housing market, even though that would work against the 70 percent owner-occupied goal.
When the city sought to unload 1.75 acres of city-owned land in the Heart of the City last fall, only high-end apartment builders responded to a request for proposals, and the city turned them away, Gustafson said.
“People that can afford that can’t rent out here because we don’t have that,” he said, adding that the Heart of the City is a perfect place for high-end rentals.
His suggestion didn’t get far.
“The thing is, if you open that door, it flies open. … We already have a good land-use plan in place,” Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said.
The 70-30 split between owner-occupied and rental reflects “what our community has told us over and over again” in surveys and citizen comments, Council Member Mary Sherry said.
High-end apartments could become lower-end apartments through ownership changes the city can’t control, Coughlin said.
Council Member Dan Kealey said the housing market is turning to rentals, and he’d support high-end apartments in the Heart of the City if it could be guaranteed they’d stay that way.
Overall, Burnsville has “way too much budget rental housing that’s causing a lot of problems we’re dealing with today,” he said, blaming councils of the distant past.
John Gessner is at email@example.com.