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Southeast Side may not get affordable housing under city’s plan

BY EMILY HOERNER | FEBRUARY 01, 2011 7:10 AM

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Iowa City’s Southeast Side may soon be unavailable for affordable-housing funding.

If Iowa City city councilors don’t alter the models presented at a special work session Monday night, southeastern Iowa City — along with pockets near Roosevelt, Hoover, and Lemme Elementary Schools — likely won’t receive funding for affordable-housing anytime soon.

The council is set to decide on the models at its Feb. 15 meeting.

Representatives from the city’s planning and community-development department unveiled a new computer map program Monday, which will allow city officials to use a number of variables in determining affordable housing locations.

The department began work on the project in November, said Jeff Davidson, the city’s director of planning and community development, and it has been given a lot of “tender, loving care.”

“We’ve been building up for this,” said Steve Long, Iowa City’s community-development coordinator.

The program’s purpose is to scatter affordable housing more evenly throughout Iowa City, said Councilor Regenia Bailey.

Councilor Mike Wright said affordable housing is something the council has talked about for a long time.

“One thing we didn’t have was data,” he said.

The computer program gives the most weight to whether an area already has affordable housing, Davidson said. It also looks at elementary-school locations, crime density, income levels, and home-price changes.

Long said he based decisions about specific variables on what the councilors and other officials — such as School Superintendent Steve Murley — said was important.

The School District — which the program weights at 30 percent — recommended three key elements be included in the council’s decisions in planning affordable-housing locations, Davidson said. The elementary-school portion of the program accounts for turnover rates, Iowa Test of Basic Skills scores, and the percentage of free and reduced lunches at each elementary school.

“We do not want to further burden elementary schools and neighborhoods,” Davidson said.

Each layer adds to the whole final map of where affordable housing should be located, he said.

“Projects will still have to go through the old scrutiny they always do,” Davidson said.

While most councilors applauded the program, Councilor Connie Champion said she still had some doubts. She noted previously rehabilitated buildings — another element of the affordable housing plan — have been left vacant.

“I’m not sold,” she said, “But I will support it for a year.”

The computer program seems to be a unique idea to the region, Davidson said.

“We’re kind of breaking new ground here a little bit I think,” he said.


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