Iowa City City Council retires affordable housing model that restricts where units are built

The Iowa City City Council voted to rescind the Affordable Housing Location Model on Tuesday to meet the current needs of the citizens of Iowa City.


Gabby Drees

Mayor pro tem Megan Alter speaks at an Iowa City City Council meeting at City Hall in Iowa City on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022

Isabelle Foland, News Reporter

The Iowa City City Council voted on Tuesday to eliminate restrictions on where affordable housing units can be built, allowing the council to meet the increased affordable housing needs in the city.

The council retired the city’s Affordable Housing Location Model to allow more flexibility and freedom for housing projects within areas previously deemed restricted by the model.

The city council adopted the Affordable Housing Location Model in 2011 to outline where new affordable housing funded by the city could be built. 

Under this model, housing projects that received city funding could not be located in elementary school districts with higher than 50 percent free and reduced lunch rates, within 400 feet of two or more existing subsidized units, or in areas with crime densities in the 95th percentile. 

According to the meeting’s agenda, the old model had three main goals when it was enacted:

  • Not further burdening neighborhoods and elementary schools that already struggled with poverty-related issues
  • Diversifying the range of incomes within neighborhoods
  • Determining the views of the Iowa City Community School District on the affordable housing issue

Mayor Pro Tem Megan Alter said, while the model had good intentions, the way it went about trying to distribute affordable housing across Iowa City did not work the way the council had hoped.

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

Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition Executive Director Sara Barron sent an email to council expressing support for the rescinding of this model on behalf of the coalition.

Barron wrote she supported the rescinding because the original policy was based on “deficit-based” perspectives of lower-income households and the policy withholds resources needed to build affordable housing due to its location restrictions. 

“In the future, should the council wish to encourage the desegregation of Iowa City’s neighborhoods, we would instead advocate for policies/funding that create housing affordability in the areas of the community that lack housing affordable to our lowest-income residents,” Barron wrote.

The motion to rescind this model was made by Councilor John Thomas and was passed unanimously.

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