The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld an Ames city ordinance that seeks to keep some homes in the city from becoming full of college students. The Ames City Council passed an ordinance in 2000 that limits the number of unrelated people who can live in houses in certain residential areas to three. The city was trying to stop large numbers of Iowa State University students from getting together and moving into residential homes.
The Ames Rental Property Association, a group of people who owned some of the homes, sued the city after they and their tenants were cited under the ordinance for renting the homes to more than three people. The association said the ordinance violated the equal protection clause of both the Iowa and U.S. Constitution. The Story County district court ruled the ordinance was constitutional as it found the ordinance was related to a legitimate government interest.
The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the ruling saying the city is trying to provide quiet and peaceful neighborhoods, with low and stable population, limited congestion of motor vehicles. The High Court says it is a reasonable attempt to address concerns by citizens who fear living next door to the hubbub of an "Animal House," a reference to the 1978 movie about a house full of rowdy students — and therefore in the government’s interest in providing quiet neighborhoods for its citizens.
The court ruled 4-3 in favor of the city of Ames. Justice David Wiggins wrote the dissenting opinion, saying while the ordinance does not violate the U.S. Constitution, he believes it does violate Iowa’s constitution. Wiggins writes the ordinance is both overinclusive and underinclusive because it is irrational to suppose the type of relationship persons residing in a home have to each other has any rational bearing on the character or behavior of those persons.