Iowa City to provide relocation assistance to Forest View mobile home residents

Residents of the Forest View mobile home park since June 2019 will be eligible for $15,750 payments after city council approval on Tuesday.


Gabby Drees

President of the Tenant’s Association Margarita Rodriguez speaks about the Forest View relocation plan at an Iowa City City Council meeting at City Hall in Iowa City on Tuesday, April 19, 2022.

Ryan Hansen, News Reporter

Residents of the Forest View mobile home park will receive $15,750 in financial assistance from the city of Iowa City to relocate to new housing.

The Iowa City City Council approved the payments at its meeting on April 19. The council decided eligible recipients of the assistance were those who resided in the park at the time a conditional zoning agreement to redevelop the park was signed in June 2019.

As part of the conditional agreement to rezone the land, developer Blackbird Developments agreed to provide manufactured housing for the current residents of the park. The development fell through, leaving residents of the park without the promise of new housing.

The assistance will be distributed over two windows to current residents, with half of the total amount, $7,875, becoming available by mid-to-late May, and the remaining half provided to the households once they move out of the park, no later than Dec. 9, 2022, according to council documents.

Assistant City Manager Rachel Kilburg said residents who had left the mobile home park between the signing of the Collective Zoning Agreement and present day would receive funds in a single check, also available in the latter half of May.

For those who left the park prior to the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and other current residents who do not qualify based on self-reported household income, the city will pull from its general fund to pay for residents’ relocation.

All other residents will be compensated using around $1.1 million of the $18.33 million in funds provided to the City of Iowa City as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The relocation funds presented through the American Rescue Plan Act are tax-exempt, while funds awarded from the general fund will be taxable, Kilberg said.

Margarita Baltazar, a Forest View resident, praised the city council for completing work that spanned a long period of time.

“You guys know that we’ve been working for this kind of help for the longest time, many, many years,” Baltazar said in an address to the council through a translator. “The first time we were my daughter was only 4 years old. Now, she’s going to be 11.”

The help provided by the council to residents of Forest View could be a model used to help others in Iowa City, Baltazar said.

“Not only are we helping each other in Forest View, we would like to help other people in our community not to go through [those] bad times that we went through,” Baltazar said. “Even though we have had bad times, this help means a lot to us.”

Mazahir Salih, executive director for the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and former Iowa City city councilor, said moving from a $300 rent in the park to paying $1,036 for a two-bedroom unit would have been very difficult for residents to adapt to without city support.

“It would be really tough for them,” Salih said. “But the city has stepped up voluntarily. You[‘ve] take[n] the initiative to help those people relocate.”

Councilor Janice Weiner thanked the roughly 15 people from Forest View who appeared at Tuesday’s meeting in both English and Spanish.

“There are moments when we have a moral obligation,” she said.

City Councilor Pauline Taylor said she was proud of the proactive actions of the city throughout the entire process, including past allocations to assist the residents of the park.

“I’m proud of you all,” Taylor said. “Your courage and your strength just amaze me. You are great role models to your children, your family members, and the entire community.”

The Daily Iowan previously reported that the total amount spent out of the general fund would total around $250,000.

“[The] plan is the result of probably close to a decade of work by Forest View residents, the Center for Worker Justice, city staff, [and] city council past and present,” Kilburg said.

The total assistance amount was calculated based on the gap between the federal fair market rent in Iowa City and the utility allowance and current lot cost for a two-bedroom unit, multiplied over 24 months. The assistance also includes the recommended federal moving allowance of $1,100.

“Housing conditions have continued to deteriorate and there has been a severe lack of investment in the neighborhood,” Kilberg said. “The city has provided some stopgap home repair efforts in the recent years, but many of those mobile homes are beyond repair and a proactive solution has been needed to help these residents relocate to safer, decent housing.”

Kilburg said the Center for Worker Justice will assist residents in filling out the necessary forms, including self-reporting their income status beginning in early May.

“We’ve scheduled those on weekend and evening hours to really reduce those barriers,” Kilburg said. “We’ll have the CWJ present to help with interpretation and translation.”

The approved resolution indicates this plan is a proactive measure meant to prevent any sudden displacement of residents and that Forest View ownership has indicated to the city that it intends to close the park on Jan. 1, 2023.

Other local resources will also be available to assist the park residents locate new housing, but the residents do not need to use the assistance to receive the relocation funds.