The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Panel mulls affordable housing

Ed Bornstein/The Daily Iowan A growing Iowa City skyline stands against a muggy afternoon sky on Monday, July 17, 2006. A story released Monday in Money Magazine ranked the city No. 74 on its “Best Places to Live” list out of an original pool of nearly 750.

Panel discussion emphasizes the importance of affordable housing for a better community

By KayLynn Harris
[email protected]

The discussion about affordable housing revolves around low-income families, but many may not realize it also affects the whole community.

According to the Johnson County Affordable Homes Coalition, more than 35 percent of renters pay more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

With recent actions aiming to prohibit excluding tenants with Housing Choice Vouchers and the ongoing push for inclusionary zoning at the Riverfront Crossings development, affordable housing conversations continue.

On Tuesday, the University of Iowa Obermann Center hosted an event addressing the issue of affordable housing in Johnson County. Around two dozen people attended the panel discussion, which focused on the health, economic, and social implications of housing.

Sally Scott, the head of the coalition, said there is a stigma many people have concerning affordable housing.

“In our society, racial discrimination is illegal, but economic segregation is not. There are a lot of barriers, some being attitudes and some being legal structures, that prevent progress within affordable housing,” she said.

“When people hear the term affordable housing, they see this image of public and barrack housing and people different from themselves, which is an unfortunate reality,” she said. “We must change these attitudes with education, confronting stereotypes, showing accurate examples of affordable housing, and doing so across multiple platforms.”

Barbara Baquero, a UI community and behavioral health assistant professor, believes housing plays a vital role in public health.

“When people think of what public health is, they think about issues like disease, infections and obesity. However, housing has a huge influence on personal health,” she said.

Baquero said low-income housing is commonly found near environmental hazards. Major health issues, such as low birth rates, cardiovascular disease, and mental illness, correlate with neighborhoods lacking resources.

“This just demonstrates bigger-picture issues surrounding adequate housing,” Baquero said.

She also stressed the importance of widespread collaboration and open dialogues to aid in finding solutions.

“Sometimes, especially here in Iowa City, the low-income areas are hidden, and we need a change in policy so that these individuals can have more leverage to stand up for themselves,” Baquero said.

Maryann Dennis, executive director of the Housing Fellowship, believes having affordable housing creates a better community.

“If people can afford their rent, utilities, and insurance without struggling, they stay. They stay for years, which creates a stable home, a stable family, and ultimately, a stable community,” she said.

Dennis said the Housing Fellowship currently owns 171 homes scattered throughout North Liberty, Iowa City, and Coralville. The homes are rented to low-income families.

“A majority of our renters work full-time,” she said. “They cut our hair, bag our groceries, and take care of our disabled and our elderly. They deserve an affordable place to live in.”

The Obermann Center plans on continuing affordable-housing conversations in the following months with other events.

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