Faculty Council discusses affordable student housing with City Council

Faculty Council listened to discussions on Tuesday about UI student housing, including a City Council proposal to build four residential buildings on Burlington Street.


Katie Goodale

Administrative Liason for the Office of the President Joni Troester addresses the council during the Faculty Council meeting in the University Capitol Centre on March 12, 2019. (Katie Goodale/The Daily Iowan)

Katie Ann McCarver, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Faculty Council, alongside the City of Iowa City City Council, gathered at the University Capitol Centre on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of issues and events on campus, including the provision of affordable housing for UI students.

Councilman Bruce Teague said the council is considering a proposal for four 15-story residential buildings on Burlington Street that will primarily cater to UI students, so housing on the north side of the city can shift from rentership by students to ownership by Iowa City citizens.

“The university has done a great job trying to figure out ways to really challenge and change the system so people can have affordable housing,” Teague said. “The city decided to change some policies and really look at what we want.”

He said the council essentially decided upon a requirement that all residential mixed projects have at least 15 percent of their units affordable. How to define what’s affordable may vary, Teague said, noting that what’s affordable for one may not be affordable for others.

Teague added that a university-city-neighborhood partnership helped identify properties that could be assumed by the city and rehabilitated. He estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 beds will be available in the proposed Burlington property.

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“It’s a lot being planned for this site,” Teague said. “The city council said that if [we] are going to do this, we want to make sure it’s an environment that will be safe place for students, an environment where they can actually study and build good relationships.”

UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Professor Katherine Tachau raised concerns about such a large project in such an enclosed space, saying that the city should be balancing their benefits of tax revenue with considerations of design and sustainability.

“I think Iowa City stands to lose individual character to more generic high-rises,” Tachau said.

She added that the proposed structures might have a negative impact on the nearby Voxman School of Music and the UI Recreation and Wellness Center, where the university paid for good architectural design. Off-campus housing might also compete with student dormitories, she said.

Faculty Senate Vice President Sandra Daack-Hirsch said access to affordable food should also be a part of the conversation moving forward. She also voiced concerns over parking by the proposed project.

“So, the slated project has, I think, one stall for every four persons who lives there. We don’t think that’s quite enough,” she said.

Teague stressed that the council has not come to an official conclusion yet.