Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa asking to allow more time away for Section 8 Residents

Under current rules, Section 8 residents can only leave their homes for up to 30 days at a time.


Gabby Drees

Executive director of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and former Mayor Pro Tem Mazahir Salih speaks at an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.

Emily Delgado, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council is weighing a request to extend the number of days tenants can be absent from their Section 8 housing.

The request comes from the Center For Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa, and the council directed the Housing and Community Development Commission to draw up a plaz.

“The implementation of this policy forces some Section 8 recipients, especially immigrant families, to make the unconscionable between keeping their affordable housing or visiting their families,” Mazahir Salih, the center’s director, wrote in the letter to the Iowa City City Council.

The Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa sent a letter to the council on Feb. 9 asking for the time residents of Section 8 housing can be away from their residences without losing assistance be increased from 30 to 60 days, so residents will have time to visit family members, especially those living in other countries.

The item will come up on the City Council’s agenda after the Housing and Community Development Commission reviews the amendments and presents their recommendations to the council.

“I, for one, would love to see a policy kind of acknowledging this,” Councilor Shawn Harmsen said. “I think it makes sense that we wouldn’t be in this, but I think we look at our community and we have a strong immigrant community.”

Currently, Iowa City’s Section 8 housing does take into consideration factors that are out of the tenants’ control from returning to their housing under 30 days. These factors include civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the letter sent to the council, these changes would allow for Section 8 housing tenants to be able to visit their family without having anxiety they would lose their affordable housing.

“We have a policy, and there’s things that feel like it’s beyond their control. We would extend that [time to leave their housing],” said Tracy Hightshoe, director of Iowa City’s Neighborhood and Development Services.