Government

Cedar Rapids tour tries to dispel myths about affordable housing

'This is what affordable housing looks like'

People look at a house developed by the Hope Community Development Association during a Thursday bus tour of affordable
People look at a house developed by the Hope Community Development Association during a Thursday bus tour of affordable housing in Cedar Rapids.
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CEDAR RAPIDS — As residents and communities leaders have wrestled with whether to build an affording housing apartment complex, with five apartments reserved for the homeless, in the northwest quadrant, housing advocates tried to dispel negative stereotypes about low-income housing during bus tours Thursday.

Policymakers and affordable housing supporters toured duplexes, single-family homes with front porches and pointed peaks, and multimillion dollar apartment complexes with brick-sided facades.

“Is this not beautiful?” said Jeff Capps, of the Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, of the $9.7 million Kingston Village Apartments, a 64-unit complex at 600 Second St. SW. “This is what affordable housing looks like.”

Capps narrated the tour of 19 properties in Cedar Rapids and Marion to showcase the quality, neighborhood fit and wide diversity of affordable housing and to reinforce why it’s critical for those that need it and the larger community.

Also participating: the Affordable Housing Network Inc., Matthew 25, the city of Cedar Rapids, Hope Community Development Association, Horizons, Housing Fund for Linn County and the Neighborhood Development Corp.

In some cases, homes that had been abandoned for years were rehabilitated from blight to a neighborhood asset or vacant lots provided sites for family homes.

“We hope to show what has been happening in the community,” said state Sen. Liz Mathis, D-Robins, who’s also an executive with Four Oaks, which is the parent organization of the Affordable Housing Network.

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“People have a certain impression of what affordable housing is, and we hope to dispel that today,” she said. “These properties are increasing our tax base, adding to neighborhoods and taking pressure off the rest of the community.”

The Affordable Housing Network defines affordable housing as costing less than 30 percent of a household’s income. According to the that guideline, a family earning $2,000 a month shouldn’t pay more than $600 a month for housing, and nearly half of the families don’t meet the threshold to afford a home at the median sale price of $134,000.

More than 80 percent of renters earning less than half the median income spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent and live in substandard and severely overcrowded housing, according to a Cedar Rapids housing report. In Cedar Rapids, the median income is $53,400 for a household of one and $76,200 for a household of four, according to an income eligibility report for federally subsidized Community Development Block Grant or HOME program houses.

The tour was intended to rally acceptance for affordable housing, which is expected to have a shortfall of nearly 754 units by 2025 and create awareness for resources that help people find housing, such as flexible lenders for those with bad credit.

By 2025, the area is expected to need 561 shallow-subsidy units, which are restricted to those making 40 to 80 percent of the median income, and 193 deep subsidy rental units, which are affordable for those making 50 percent or less of the area median income, according to a separate Cedar Rapids housing needs report.

Cedar Rapids now has 1,531 subsidized housing units.

Paula Mitchell, the housing and redevelopment manager in Cedar Rapids, said federal funding for subsidized housing is at risk. A budget projection for next year calls for Cedar Rapids to receive $986,254 through Community Development Block Grants and $269,220 through HOME.

Renie Neuberger, of the Affordable Housing Network, said a loss of federal funding would pressure other housing support services. Stable homes are critical, particularly for children, as a foundation for their lives, she said.

“It brings happiness and stability to children when they have a safe, free-from-hazardous-condition living situation,” she said.

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The tour came a couple of days after the City Council reversed course and supported the $9 million, 45-unit Crestwood Ridge Apartments at 1200 Edgewood Rd. NW. It will provide 36 low-income units, and another five units for formerly homeless families.

The Crestwood project generated heavy debate about where low-income residents should live in the community and whether such complexes would have a negative impact on neighborhoods. Several neighbors living close to the Crestwood site said they were opposed to elements of the project but not to the idea of affordable housing in their neighborhood.

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