Guest Opinion: The Quarters, not so much a travesty

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Guest Opinion: The Quarters, not so much a travesty

Courtesy of: University of Iowa Off-Campus Housing

Courtesy of: University of Iowa Off-Campus Housing

Courtesy of: University of Iowa Off-Campus Housing

Courtesy of: University of Iowa Off-Campus Housing

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By DANIEL SHOVERS

A group of five Midwestern real-estate developers are building a 350-unit apartment community known as The Quarters to be located approximately three miles from the University of Iowa campus.
Recently, this roughly $45 million development has come under fire from many, most notably the University of Iowa Student Government Housing Affordability Task Force. In a guest opinion piece on Feb. 10 titled “The Quarters: Four Reasons to Rive Elsewhere,” accusations were levied finding fault in the high cost of rent, environmentally sustainable practices, access to the UI campus, and supposed gentrification. I hope to lay these falsehoods to rest.

First, this piece accuses the developers of perpetuating the problem of higher rent. This claim that The Quarters will be on the same level of notorious Apartments Downtown/Apartments Near Campus is ridiculous for many reasons, including the simple fact that the developers own the vast majority of their property outside the state of Iowa. The nearby campus housing market is what economists call a monopsony, in which there is essentially one supplier (be it one family or one corporate entity) providing development opportunities to investors through their ownership of buildable land near downtown Iowa City. The Clark family, owners of Apartments Downtown, Apartments Near Campus, Iowa City Maintenance, Big 10 towing, etc., are in essence the housing monopsony.  Adding outside investors to the Iowa City housing community will only help break up this monopsony while creating more supply for students, which will therefore lower overall prices.

Second, the anti-improvement crowd argues that The Quarters does not meet their definition of environmentally sustainable. Before Tailwinds’ (the investment group) involvement in the off-campus community, there were approximately 400 apartment units at the site. These housing units were built in 1966, according to tax records, which was a time of weak sustainability in terms of building product  —  such as windows and insulation. Therefore, The Quarters will be more sustainable than the previous buildings with the result being more efficient apartments at a lower cost. Also, this piece asserted that The Quarters advertises “every bedroom has a bathroom,” which is not true. The Quarters has two-bedroom, one-bath options.

Third, the problem with the lack of access to the UI campus is challenging. The Hawks Ridge apartment community has eased this problem by providing a shuttle from the off-site community to the campus. Because Hawks Ridge has not recently fallen into foreclosure due to dissatisfied students lacking transportation, I believe that The Quarters will suffice with its shuttle service.

Last, The Quarters is being labeled racist and classist. The before-mentioned piece by the UISG Housing Affordability Task Force says the developers uprooted locals and displaced them into homelessness. This couldn’t be further from reality. Even if the $12 million transactions happened overnight, the new owners assume ownership and obligations of the lease agreements, meaning that the residents have until the end of their respective leases to find alternative housing.

The slumlord that Tailwinds purchased the property from has 10 unlivable units while the 400-plus others were “crumbling,” according to Drew Coffin, a leasing agent for The Quarters.  Also, according to Coffin, Tailwinds is providing assistance to the previous tenants by helping them find other affordable housing while construction takes place.

Overall, we, as students and current Iowa City residents, should be thankful to the generous developers for gambling tens of millions of dollars while providing higher property values and amenities to the neighboring blue-collar community.

— Daniel Shovers is a UI student of economics and political science while being a candidate of the Institute of Real Estate Management’s Accredited Residential Manager.

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