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Out of control rent causes slew of problems in Iowa City

BY DEEANNA BLETTE | JUNE 10, 2009 7:26 AM

With the saturation of Iowa City’s rental market and growing population of college students, certain rental agencies, such as mine, and real-estate owners have targeted renters in Iowa City, college students in particular. These rapacious parasitic beings on society have no interest for the benefit of you, the community, or society as a whole. I love capitalism, but not when everyone else has to suffer for a singleton’s gain. What some of the rental agencies in particular are trying to do is corner the market and make a new status quo.

For instance, my rental agency recently bought my building. I could not prepare a meal for a week when the agency modified my kitchen — a two-hour job that was milked and poorly executed. With a couple of modifications, it now wants to charge $1.70 per square foot, increasing my rent 40 percent to $849 for a 500-square-foot apartment that it neglects and has been in breach of contract on more than a dozen times since November 2008. It did not care that it started this project during final’s week or if I went hungry for a week, let alone concern over trying to have privacy taking a shower.

This is like hedge-fund owners controlling the oil markets; they work together to drive prices up, buying up all the stock, making a new status quo, and pushing gas prices above $4 per gallon. The rent situation is similar but on a smaller and local scale. What happens: gentrification, the restoration of run-down urban areas by the middle class (resulting in the displacement of low-income residents), as we’ve seen in Boston and Los Angeles. According to bestplaces.net, in 2007, rent in Des Moines was 41 percent cheaper than in Iowa City and 37 percent cheaper than in Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids and Des Moines are the only two cities in Iowa with a population of more than 100,000 people. Simply put, if my landlord is getting $1.70 per square foot, then Bob, owner of a home across the street, will want that price, too. However, the units are not new, well-kept, or green, but rundown. With the market nearly at full saturation, my landlord and possibly Bob will increase rents way above market — during a national recession, no less — and establish the new status quo of doom.

The extra money you spend on rent is simply a redistribution of money. Three to 15 homeless people are turned away every night from Shelter House at 331 N. Gilbert St. A new shelter is being built to house 70 homeless people because this population has been growing, and shelters have had long waiting lists because of foreclosures in Iowa. You will eventually have homeless people on every block panhandling. You will go out less and shop less, leading small businesses to suffer and eventually close, and jobs will be lost, and vital workers in the community will move or go homeless.

The entire economy suffers from this, and it has a nasty domino affect. Taxes will go up to offset the number of homeless, and more families will be needy and need to use resources such as the Crisis Center, HACAP, and the Free Medical Clinic.

While taxes are going up, small businesses will have to raise prices. People are not getting richer in Iowa City, and property values are declining because of the flood as well as overwhelming crime rates. Whenever crime is high, property value goes down. Something the owners could do in Iowa City is form a neighborhood watch or do something to keep the community safer. Everyone would benefit from this. Understanding their tenants’ well-being and being apart of their investment is crucial, and an inclusive community is essential to better and fair living.

Bottom line: Redistribution of money goes into your landlord’s pocket, regardless of whether property taxes go down or not.


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