116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Residents of the deteriorating Forest View Mobile Home Court finally have an answer on what’s next after years of waiting for new homes promised under a 2019 deal that stalled and failed.
The city will use federal pandemic aid, supplemented with local funds, for a voluntary relocation program intended to help residents of the mobile home park find safe, stable housing before the park closes, as is widely anticipated.
The city council on Tuesday unanimously approved the $1.4 million program after spending the past two work sessions discussing program details. The city is not legally obligated to provide such assistance but council members expressed the “moral obligation” to help residents.
Eligible households each will receive relocation assistance of $15,750, with the first round of payments expected to go out by late-May.
Residents of the park off North Dubuque Street and south of Interstate 80 were promised new homes as part of a deal the city made with a developer in June 2019.
The plan was to develop 73 acres that included the mobile home park into a mix of housing and commercial space. The mobile home residents were promised first consideration for the manufactured and multifamily housing that was going to be built there.
But the proposed development did not move forward due to the COVID-19 pandemic, landowners previously told The Gazette.
The city agreed to work with the Forest View Tenants Association and Center for Worker Justice on a voluntary relocation plan.
Margarita Rodriguez, president of the tenants association, thanked the council and city for supporting the residents but acknowledged many emotions that come with relocation.
“We’re so used to living there,” Rodriguez, a Forest View resident of 31 years, told The Gazette. “It’s a community.”
Rodriguez said neighbors check on neighbors and make sure children get home from the bus stop. She has a friend who has lived there 48 years.
“Money can’t buy that love and kindness,” Rodriguez said.
The cost of the relocation program could range between $1.3 million and $1.4 million, with the city providing $250,000 to $400,000, City Manager Geoff Fruin previously told the council.
The 82 to 87 households living in the mobile home park on June 4, 2019 — the date the conditional zoning agreement was signed — will be eligible for $15,750 in relocation assistance.
The majority of households qualify for assistance under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, so their payments will not be taxable, Assistant City Manager Rachel Kilburg explained.
The city will use local funds, which will be taxable, for households who moved out before the federal eligibility date or who earn more than $40,626 annually, the maximum allowed for assistance.
Fruin estimates at least five households moved out of the park before March 2020, and at least seven households were above the income threshold.
Households currently living in Forest View will receive half the funds — $7,875 — after completing city- required documents for the program. The other half will be distributed after the recipients move.
Residents have until Dec. 9 to vacate the mobile home park.
Eligible households that have moved will receive the full amount in one payment.
Council members on Tuesday praised the persistence of residents who have been fighting and advocating since discussions about a development began in 2016.
“Persistence can be worn down, and your strength in addition to your inspiration, your hope, … in the face of enormous challenge is truly inspiring,” Mayor Pro Tem Megan Alter said. “It's a model for how we all should work as a community.”
But council members also acknowledged the difficulty of finding affordable housing in a market with rising costs and high demand for affordable options.
Mayor Bruce Teague, noting Iowa City’s tight housing market, said, “I'm also reminded that this road won't be easy for a lot because of the rents in our community, and I think that is something for us to continue to work on.”
Council member Shawn Harmsen agreed, noting, “We're in the middle of multiple concerns about the future of mobile home courts and other affordable housing in our community.”
Concerns also have been raised about out-of-state companies buying Iowa mobile home parks and raising lot prices. Most recently, Utah-based Havenpark Communities bought two Iowa City mobile home parks for a combined $33.5 million, adding to the several parks it owns in the state.
A bill headed to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk would give mobile homeowners an extra month’s notice of a rent increase or when a landlord cancels their rental agreement. Advocates say the proposal does not go far enough in protecting mobile homeowners against out-of-state companies.
Kilburg said the Center for Worker Justice has agreed to serve as a resource for households and assist them with finding housing. The city has budgeted $68,000 for program administration and assistance from local social service agencies.
The city, with the Center for Worker Justice, is planning to host eligibility clinics in early May to help households complete the necessary forms. Clinics will be held over the weekend and during evening hours, Kilburg said.
Translation and interpretation services will be provided by the center.
The city anticipates checks will be available by mid- to late May. Checks must be claimed by Dec. 22.
Rodriguez, the Tenants Association president, said she eventually plans to move in with her daughter, who lives in Iowa City. But she’s in no rush to move out of Forest View.
“I’ll be the last one to leave Forest View,” Rodriguez said. “I want to make sure everyone has what they need.”
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