City tackles site of affordable housing


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An entire neighborhood once signed a petition to block a four-unit complex for affordable housing from the area.

That was last year. Now, the Iowa City Planning Department has changed its entire affordable housing location model in efforts to make low-income housing distribution in Iowa City fair to those need it.

But controversy still exists.

“There is almost always neighborhood opposition when putting in affordable housing into an area,” said Tracy Heightshoe, a community-development planner.

Heightshoe gave a public presentation on the new model Sunday morning, but few people attended.

The Community Development Division for Iowa City is responsible for planning a variety of affordable housing activities. Iowa City is considered an entitlement city because of its size, which guarantees federal funding to provide payments that will benefit low-income citizens.

Iowa City receives approximately $1.5 million in federal funding annually, and last year, the Community Development Division was able to rehabilitate 29 owner-occupied affordable homes with the money.

Since October 2010, officials have been working on a new model for affordable housing distribution. The model is now complete and the Planning Department has been making efforts to inform Iowa City residents about the new plan.

The Iowa City City Council is set to vote on the zoning map at its Tuesday meeting.

“We’re analyzing how to make the city better,” Heightshoe said.

She discussed zoning issues in the second week of a six-week series informing the public on fair housing in Iowa City at the Congregational United Church of Christ, 30 N. Clinton St.

“I think this series has been great,” said Charles Connerly, a University of Iowa professor of Urban and Regional Planning.

Heightshoe said every community struggles with deciding where to put low-income housing. In the first week of making the model for Iowa City, officials received calls from two cities in Texas and from Des Moines she said.

The new model bases affordable housing distribution on seven factors, including distance to existing low-income housing and crime density.

The model will allow no more than 10 to 15 percent of low income housing in an area of Iowa City. The plan will be updated annually, to guarantee its accuracy and fairness.

Though there weren’t many members of the community in attendance, City Councilor Connie Champion said this type of event is important.

“I think a lot of people don’t want to understand what’s going on with low-income housing,” said Champion. “Anything that people can do to get others more educated is great.”

The common perception for a candidate of low-income housing is someone lazy, but in reality they’re retail salespeople, pharmacy technicians, and university workers, Champion said.

“It is a big problem,” she said. “And just because someone needs help doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get it because of what other people think.”

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