116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — The Iowa City Shelter House on Thursday broke ground on a “Housing First” project that will provide permanent, supportive housing for the city’s homeless population.
This is the second such project for Shelter House. The first, Cross Park Place, opened in 2019 at 820 Cross Park Ave., south of Highway 6.
The new building, at 501 Southgate Ave., adjacent to Shelter House, will have 36 apartments, adding to the 24 units at Cross Park Place.
Construction of the three-story building is expected to take about a year.
The “Housing First” model places chronically homeless people in permanent, residential housing without barriers to entry. It provides housing first, then addresses behavioral mental health problems or addiction issues.
Having a place to live provides people with the stability to resolve their problems or issues, Shelter House Director of Development Christine Ralston said.
“Consistently, requiring that someone heal before they be housed, it just doesn’t work,” she said. “We know that housing is actually what allows for stabilization.”
Rent is 30 percent of a tenant’s income and is adjusted if a tenant loses a source of income.
Iowa Finance Authority Executive Director Debi Durham said at the groundbreaking that Shelter House has been a good partner in the past and that building affordable housing projects is important for Iowa’s economic success.
“Housing is an issue for Iowa, and it's across the continuum,” she said. "It’s at the homeless level, but it's all the way up to market rate, and so we have to deal with it at every single point of entry.“
The total project is estimated to cost $7.5 million, Ralston said. The Iowa Finance Authority awarded $2.7 million to the project, the same amount it contributed to the construction of Cross Park Place. The Johnson County Housing Trust Fund awarded $1.04 million.
Shelter House Executive Director Crissy Canganelli said the nonprofit is taking on a commercial loan to finance the rest of the project.
“We understand this housing as addressing an urgent need in our community. It's a life-saving intervention,” she said. “So that's why we're moving forward, even though we are taking on substantial debt.”
Before the ceremony, volunteers gathered at the Iowa Antique Car Museum in Coralville to build some of the building’s interior walls.
The volunteer build was the idea of Mike Hodge, president of Hodge Construction, the company managing the build, Canganelli said.
The volunteer work was a way, she said, “to share the experience with a broader group of folks throughout the community that don't ordinarily get to engage in this hands-on way in the work that we do,”.
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