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Iowa City planners look to fine-tune affordable housing in Riverfront Crossings

A building is under construction at Riverfront Crossings Park in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. City officials say the park could help interest investors in pursuing residential developments nearby, within one of the city's two Opportunity Zone tracts. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
A building is under construction at Riverfront Crossings Park in Iowa City on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. City officials say the park could help interest investors in pursuing residential developments nearby, within one of the city's two Opportunity Zone tracts. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa City’s planning and zoning commission on Thursday will consider two changes to affordable housing regulations in the city’s Riverfront Crossings district.

Under city code, residential developers in the district must set aside 10 percent of their project’s total units as affordable housing, either on or off site, or pay fees.

One proposed change would grant developers another option for meeting that affordable housing requirement.

Units in projects that the Iowa Finance Authority has issued Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, and that meet the program’s rent limits for Johnson County, would count toward the developer’s obligation.

As it stands now, housing units qualify as affordable only if they’re rented for no more than the Iowa City area’s annual fair market rent, as set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Another proposed change would close a loophole through which affordable units in Riverfront Crossings could be rented to well-off tenants rather than low-income individuals.

The current code deems homebuyers eligible to buy affordable housing units for households where the annual income is up to 110 percent of Iowa City’s annual area median income. Tenants can rent affordable units with annual household incomes up to 60 percent of that threshold.

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City staffers are recommending a $100,000 cap on households’ non-retirement assets so homebuyers and renters with “substantial assets,” but low annual incomes, could no longer qualify for affordable units.

This, staff wrote in documents recommending the change, will help ensure that “households most in need of affordable housing will receive that housing.”

The Planning and Zoning Commission meets for 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St. The issue then goes to the Iowa City Council for review and a vote.

Iowa City outlined “improving housing choice” as a primary strategy in a comprehensive fair housing study council members adopted in August.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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