The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City Community School District students break ground on affordable housing project

In a partnership with a local nonprofit and the city, students can learn vocational skills while giving back to their community.
Madison Frette
The Housing Fellowship and ICCSD student-built affordable housing construction site seen on Sept. 18, 2023. (Madison Frette/The Daily Iowan)

Students at the Iowa City Community School District broke ground on an affordable housing unit this fall that they will help construct. 

The school district reintroduced its Student Built House Program, which has not run since 2010, to make use of a vacant lot at 724 Ronalds St. that the City of Iowa City acquired in 2016. 

The students are helping construct a two-bedroom house throughout this school year, and there will potentially be another house constructed on the same lot next school year, according to a release from the City of Iowa City.

Program instructor John Reynolds said the course is for students who are in the “trades” curriculum, which consists of construction, electrical, plumbing, and other trade skills.

There are currently 16 students enrolled in the program who come from each of the three high schools in the district from West High School, Liberty High School, and City High School. 

The class is split into two groups, Reynolds said. One meets for three hours in the morning, and one meets for three hours in the afternoon.

While the class mostly consists of hands-on work on the construction site, there is also a curriculum where students learn the basics of construction and the trades, such as how to read a blueprint, Reynolds said.

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Students shadow professional contractors and help them with certain tasks, including drilling holes for wiring to go through, pouring concrete, and tiling floors, he said. Students also had the opportunity to operate an excavator to help push dirt and dig holes.

According to Reynolds, ground was broken on the project on Sept. 18. He said students in the program have loved the experiences they gathered, and that the course can help them get a leg up on others when they graduate and go off into the trades.

“I think it’s one of those classes that students enjoy,” Reynolds said. “It’s interesting, and it’s not that difficult to get them engaged because it is just really cool stuff. It’s a lot of neat things and they’re seeing it for real.” 

Iowa City schools partnered with The Housing Fellowship, a local nonprofit that helps create long-term affordable housing units in the city for the program. 

The fellowship’s Executive Director Simon Andrew said this partnership has been beneficial for all parties involved.

“We were really excited to see students being trained in the trades,” Andrews said. “On top of that, to have the finished product be used for affordable housing and to be a part of our inventory was just a perfect partnership.” 

After the unit is built, The Housing Fellowship will take over the responsibility of leasing the unit out to renters, Andrews said.

The estimated cost of this construction project is around $300,000, and the City of Iowa City acting as the main financial contributor to the project, Andrews said.

Tracy Hightshoe, Iowa City’s neighborhood and development services director, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that the city has provided around $200,000 toward the project. 

“We provide a household with an opportunity to live in a neighborhood within walking distance to downtown and the University of Iowa Campus that is affordable as well as provide a hands-on learning experience for students interested in the construction trades,” Hightshoe wrote. “The home will be energy efficient and meet historic preservation standards.”

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.