Supervisors want new affordable housing survey

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JULY 30, 2014 5:00 AM

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Johnson County officials are asking for an update on the Affordable Housing Market Analysis from 2007, and some want to see specific data for smaller county communities.

“Compared with other communities in the larger area, rent is still high in places such as Swisher and Hills,” said county Supervisor Rod Sullivan. “There’s statistical data that show people in Johnson County pay a higher percentage of their income than most places in the country.”

Area city councilors and the Johnson County Board of Supervisors discussed on Monday the effect of a proposed local-option sales tax in each community and where generated funding should be allocated, such as affordable housing.

Affordable housing is determined by median income in the local area, as cited by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

If renters pay more than 30 percent of their annual income on rent, then they are not living within affordable means. A homeowner should not pay more than 50 percent on housing expenses.

The first Affordable Housing Market Analysis of the Iowa City metropolitan area was conducted in 2007, studying population and housing growth trends as well as community incomes and expenditures.

The original report focused only on the five Iowa City metro jurisdictions: Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, University Heights, and Tiffin.

According to the study’s major findings, household units are growing faster than the population, housing prices are increasing faster than income rates, and higher-priced units are being developed at a faster rate than moderately priced.

Iowa City’s median household income per year was around $40,000, and approximately 29 percent of the metro area received less than $25,000 annually.

Now, the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County is conducting a 2014 update.

“We are experts with synthesizing data, not the issues,” said Kent Ralston, acting executive director of the Metro Planning Organization.

He said the team, alongside the Johnson County Housing Trust Fund, was charged updating the 2007 data to verify if the results are still accurate, using most recent census data and American Community Survey.

The bulk of the data, Ralston said, will be used from the 2010 census.

Ralston said the team will probably decide not to release specific data on smaller Johnson County communities because it was not requested to do so until Monday by Supervisor Janelle Rettig. The members plan to try to use local appraiser data to find a countywide balance, he said.

The study should be released by late August or early September, Ralston said, but the study must be published before Aug. 27 for the information to be used for ballot language submission concerning the local-option sales tax.

“The issue is that really in the county property, it is more affordable anyway [than the metro jurisidictions],” he said. “That’s already a bold statement, but there is not too much need for affordable housing right now.”

Smaller county communities may face affordable-housing issues in the future.

Sullivan said housing costs may diminish farther outside of employment centers, such as the UI Hospitals and Clinics, but it’s still high compared with the state and nation.

Iowa City City Councilor Kingsley Botchway said that he spoke with a councilor from Swisher at Monday’s meeting, and that town faces an affordable-housing problem.

“He had the foresight to see it is a huge problem that could be coming,” he said.

Botchway said that increasing numbers of people are moving to communities such as Swisher to locate themselves between the university and Cedar Rapids.

By directing revenue from a local-option sales tax into affordable-housing funding, Botchway said, smaller municipalities could also benefit, not just the more urban ones.

“We don’t have a way right now to leverage developers to involve themselves in affordable housing,” he said.

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