Iowa City City Council amends Riverfront Crossings affordable-housing requirements

Iowa City City Council engaged in a debate regarding affordability codes with the Riverfront Crossings development. An amendment to move forth with affordability passed the council unanimously.


Emily Wangen

Iowa City city councilors meet at City Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019. The City council heard from community members and discussed various agenda items.

Hannah Rovner, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday to amend the affordable-housing requirements for the Riverfront Crossings development, clarifying which households are eligible for the program based on their income brackets.

The ordinance sets a $100,000 limit on assets, excluding retirement assets, for those applying for affordable housing at Riverfront Crossings on Linn Street. Units that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Iowa Finance Authority also qualify as affordable housing under the revised requirements, according to City Council documents.

The Planning and Zoning Commission on Oct. 17 moved to recommend the City Council pass this ordinance.

City Councilor Susan Mims asked about the nonretirement assets and said there are seniors with very low incomes but very high assets. Tracy Hightshoe, neighborhood & development services director, suggested the question didn’t apply.

In a rare case, the commission found that there are people applying for affordable housing with more than $2 million in assets. The commission hopes for the project to be consistent with owner-occupied housing programs.

RELATED: Proposed Riverfront Crossings development awaits Iowa City City Council approval

City Councilor Bruce Teague asked if this was related to owner-occupied individuals and raised concern about whether or not it would exclude rental-occupied homes. Hightshoe answered it will apply to both.

Teague said it is disturbing for families when they are being forced to move to different areas that they cannot afford.

“I come from a world where affordable housing is a high need,” Teague said. “But in Iowa City, there is a struggle to find this availability. If we open it to a greater income set, I would not be in favor of this amendment [because it would exclude a needy community].”

Iowa City City Manager Geoff Fruin said the amendment aims to “clean up the code.” Fruin advised the council to pass the amendment and then vet and analyze the proposals in more detail.

RELATED: Iowa City City Council defers Riverfront Crossing rezoning again

Hightshoe said citizens can have a lot of assets and still apply for affordable housing under Housing and Urban Development standards.

“If these changes are approved, this can prevent a misuse of the affordability program,” Affordable Housing Coalition Executive Director Sara Barron said.

Teague closed the discussion regarding housing affordability and said he is encouraged.

“Even though the $100,000 [of assets] in theory seems high, what they are seeing in applications isn’t even close to the asset [limit],” Teague said. “Across the board, that $100,000 limit is what they are doing. I don’t see a need to change this; I’ll support it as it is. The Low Income Housing Tax Credit will be a positive move in the right direction with the Riverfront Crossing area.”