Government

Iowa City staff plans event to kickoff fair housing study

City updates study every five years

City Hall is shown in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
City Hall is shown in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — City officials are hoping to hear from residents about how to make housing in Iowa City a bit more fair.

The city is about to undertake a fair housing study, with a completion scheduled for May, to identify barriers to fair housing in Iowa City as well as steps to inclusivity and fair housing choice.

Residents are invited to attend a kickoff event, featuring a presentation on fair housing and a workshop to brainstorm solutions, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the Senior Center Assembly Room at 28 S. Linn St.

Kirk Lehmann, community development planner, said the city has a responsibility to “affirmatively further fair housing” as a stipulation of receiving federal money in the form of Community Development Block Grants and HOME funds. Those funds can be used to buy, construct or rehabilitate affordable homes.

Fair housing means those seeking to rent or buy a home cannot be discriminated against on the basis of age, gender identity or national origin, among other characteristics.

Iowa City’s fair housing protections are broader than at the federal level because the city added a separate protected group: those who receive public assistance.

The study “includes not just identifying barriers but trying to actively work to overcome those barriers,” Lehmann said. “So it’s not just the study itself that helps the city further fair housing, but it’s the actions that really come out of the study,” Lehmann said.

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The study gets updated about every five years, with the previous one coming in 2014 from the University of Iowa. That study showed the city has racial and ethnic concentrations within its borders and barriers to mobility, among other findings.

The city launched an Affordable Housing Action Plan to address some of the issues the last study identified.

The city will conduct this year’s study, starting at the kickoff event. The event will include topics such as affordability, choice and discrimination, as well as a public survey and focus groups with housing organizations. The public survey is expected to be online after the event at icgov.org/commdev.

“It’s kind of a broad opportunity for all members of the public to come out and share their ideas, try to identify barriers, try to identify potential solutions that the city could take in,” Lehmann said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

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