Councilors hear housing woes

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Councilors hear housing woes

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Attendance was mixed at a local community meeting designed to attract more University of Iowa student involvement with city issues.

A couple of Iowa City city councilors came together with members of the community for a listening post Wednesday afternoon at the University Capitol Center.

UI student Nicole Neal, the UI Student Government City Council liaison, said she suggested to the council the event be held at the University Capitol Center because it’s more welcoming to students.

“It’s a really great opportunity to have conversation with councilors in a relaxed environment,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for councilors to interact with citizens in the area.”

Neal said the goal of events like this are to get more student input, but anyone is welcome.

“It can be hard at times to get student input at the City Council meetings so this is a great opportunity for students to voice their concerns,” she said.

Councilors John Thomas and Pauline Taylor attended the meeting. The last event of this kind took place on April 1.

“Our intent of these listening posts is to simply listen to what the community has to say,” Taylor said.

She said the goal of the listening post is to switch sides and let the community’s voice be heard.

Throughout the two-hour event, handfuls of people came and went from the conference room on the second floor of the center. Numerous issues were discussed, including concerns about affordable housing, transportation, and a variety of other issues.

Issues with housing, such as affordable housing in the Iowa City area, was the main discussion brought up by members of the community. Affordable housing is also one of the main topics in the council’s Strategic Plan.

Nancy Bird, the executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District, said housing is critical and Iowa City isn’t alone in this.-

“There are a lot of towns in the same situations,” she said. “There are a lot of things that can be changed to address this. A shortage in housing is an issue here, and no matter what kind of housing it is, we just need more of it.”

Neal said affordable housing is an issue that affects students more than people realize.

“The affordable housing issue is something we’ve heard a lot about,” she said. “It affects students as well as other members of the community.”

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Jake Simpson, the UISG City Council vice liaison, said predatory landlords are a key problem when looking at the housing issue in the city.

“I think students are taken advantage of by landlords a lot, and that’s just wrong,” he said.

Thomas said the student housing population was not a part of the original affordable housing analysis, but it will be.

“My feeling is we need to at least look at it from the standpoint of Iowa City or even further than that, grasping the larger picture,” he said.

Thomas said he is relatively new to Iowa City because he is from the San Francisco Bay Area, and he said his understanding of Iowa City is still expanding exponentially.

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