Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | OCTOBER 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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And we thought the damage caused by the floods had a negative and long-lasting impact.

A silent and subtle storm is forming, beginning to wreak havoc on our local community.

Why is the Iowa City area no longer able to accommodate working families? Here are a few reasons.

Rents are rising faster than incomes.

New rental units are not priced for those earning less than 50 percent of area median income ($38,000 for a family of four). The rule of thumb is no one should spend more than 30 percent of income for housing costs. For a family earning $25,000 per year, they can only “afford” $625 per month; the citys three-bedroom rental average is $1,016.

Mobile homes are disappearing gradually as no financing exist to replace them (because of the extinction of subprime lenders the past five years); the average age of local mobile home is more than 35 years old.

Subsidies such as Section 8 are being reduced and, in some apartment complexes, eliminated altogether.

The rental market is super tight: a local private study found approximately a 0.5 percent vacancy rate this year; 5-6 percent vacancy rate is considered the national average. The demand by the student population, by professionals earning more than 60 percent of area median income (is this the new definition by government officials of workforce housing?), and by retirees who are finding the greater Iowa City area an attractive place in which to retire all put pressure on the wider housing market

Today is U.N. World Habitat Day. It is intended to cause us time to reflect on housing issues, locally and globally. In recognition of World Habitat Day, a public forum will be held at Zion Lutheran Church. Three housing professionals will speak to describe the struggles of local families to afford roofs over their heads. The public and all candidates for public office are encouraged to attend to ask questions and brainstorm solutions.

We all need safe, decent, and affordable housing. What can we do to help the single mom earning $12 an hour afford groceries, clothing, transportation, and other basic living expenses? What can we do to make sure our community is an inclusive, not exclusive, place to live?  We have been blessed with many resources in Iowa: how do we best share our gifts with those who take care of our children, cook our food, and clean our floors?

Mark Patton
executive director, Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity

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