Iowa City City Council highlights affordable housing as most important topic in five-year strategic plan

Affordable housing was discussed by the Iowa City City Council as they reviewed the five-year strategic plan for Iowa City. The council aimed to make affordable housing a top priority for local residents.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Councilor Megan Alter is pictured at an Iowa City City Council meeting at City Hall on Monday, June 6, 2022.

Grace Katzer, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council made affordable housing a top priority in the city’s five-year strategic plan on Thursday.

At the Sept. 8 City Council meeting, the council decided it is the most pressing issue for Iowa City residents, among other goals.

According to the City of Iowa City’s strategic plan update, “The strategic plan intends to foster a more inclusive, just and sustainable Iowa City by prioritizing the physical, mental and economic well-being of all residents.”

A six-month process allowed the council and city staff to refine the components of the plan. Before Thursday’s meeting, council members were given the task of prioritizing the items on the action plan.

The council put the biggest emphasis on affordable housing. On a priority scale of 15, the council ranked affordable housing a score of 12.4, the highest score given in the strategic plan.

Mayor Pro Tem and City Council member Megan Alter said she was most passionate about acting on affordable housing in Iowa City.

“I’m really excited about it because it is a bit of a different direction than the council has gone in the past,” she said. “This is at a larger scale.”

There was strong support from all of the council for being able to leverage its borrowing power and invest in the possibility of affordable housing, she said.

“Some of the money [for affordable housing] is carved out through the budget process,” Alter said, referring to the 2023 fiscal budget. “We are able to also fund from what has been granted through Tax Increment Financing dollars.”

The council also works with the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County to fund and promote safe and accessible housing for Iowa City citizens, according to Alter.

City Council member Laura Bergus said the council has received money toward the cause recently.

“We recently had our significant contribution to affordable housing with 1 million dollars allocated, with 500k towards the Housing Trust Fund,” she said.

Although affordable housing is a concern for many students at the University of Iowa, council members hope that the affordable housing plan will be able to help students as well.

“Housing related to the University of Iowa students is a complicated issue that goes back decades, but it falls within our goals for affordable housing,” Bergus said.

Alter said she also supports students being factored into the strategic plan.

“When I think of affordable housing, I think of university students,” Atler said. “There are so many students who struggle with affordable housing which can turn towards predatory landlords.”

Atler said the council prioritizes proximity toward the university when it comes to affordable housing, however it is an incremental process.

“It was put into phase 1 of the plan so we could plan and act on it,” she said. “The work we do is ongoing, we are not losing sight.”

The council recognized the housing crisis that is present all over the U.S., and they hope to relieve some of that pressure from Iowa City residents.

“We know affordable housing is such a need for so many people in our community,” Bergus said. “We know it cuts across for so many people, in all stages of life, and all backgrounds.”