Iowa City renovating South District duplexes to be affordable and sustainable

Iowa City’s South District Program is purchasing duplexes and rehabilitating them. The homes are made sustainable through solar panel installation and are reserved for low-income residents.


Jerod Ringwald

A duplex on Taylor Drive in the South District Home Investment Partnership Program is seen on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Program aims to provide housing for low income residents.

Natasha Keicher, News Reporter

Iowa City’s South District Program is working toward accomplishing its goal of making housing affordable and sustainable.

The city is purchasing duplexes in the South District, performing significant rehabilitations, and installing sustainable technologies, like solar panels.

Neighborhood and Development Services Coordinator for Iowa City Tracy Hightshoe said the South District Program was created to help balance the number of rental and owned properties within the district, as well as to invest money into the neighborhood.

“Nobody has invested in that neighborhood for some time and [the residents] were excited that the city took an interest,” she said.

The South District Program can make these homes affordable to low-income residents by using local city and federal funds, said Erika Kubly, Iowa City’s neighborhood services coordinator.

“The city is helping to fund the rehabilitation of these homes, and we have a $35,000 budget for each property,” Kubly said.

The program is also using other local funds, like general city revenue, to renovate the homes. This money is used to install the solar panels, which cost roughly $10,000 per household, and other updates the property may need, Kubly said.

These local funds are repaid to the city when the home is purchased and the pledged $35,000 that the city contributed will be forgiven over the duration of the homeowners stay, Kubly said.

RELATED: City Council approves purchase of duplexes in South District for affordable housing

Funding resources for low-income buyers are offered through federal funding, Kubly said. The Federal Home Investment Partnership Program provides $25,000 in down payment assistance for the buyer alongside the city funding, she said.

The city has limitations on who can buy these duplexes. Hightshoe said only low-income buyers are considered and preference is given to residents who live in the surrounding neighborhood.

“The first duplexes that we sold were purchased by two Taylor [Drive] residents who’d lived there for a combined total of 22 plus years,” Hightshoe said.

Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition Executive Director Sara Barron said affordable housing and sustainability go hand-in-hand. The affordability of a home is not just about the monthly payment, it’s also about the utility and water bills, she said.

“I think it’s certainly a mistake to think that affordability and sustainability fight against each other,” Barron said.

Kubly said by investing in sustainable technologies in these homes, like solar panels or energy efficient appliances, the positive outcome that the homeowners receive could have long term impacts on the neighborhood.

“The homeowners have the opportunity to build equity in a safe and stable home that also has all of those sustainability features, [that] is a fantastic commitment that the city of Iowa City has made,” Barron said.