IOWA CITY — A fire-damaged duplex is presenting Iowa City with an opportunity to reinvest in its South District.
A year ago, the city launched the South District Home Investment Partnership Program. The program is to provide homeownership opportunities to low-income residents by buying and rehabbing two duplexes in the district.
“It’s a program to reinvest in neighborhoods that might have lacked investment,” said Tracy Hightshoe, the city’s neighborhood and development services director.
The city, however, has had difficulties finding properties that fit its criteria.
To be considered for the program, the property had to be located in the South District, with an emphasis on Taylor Drive and Davis Street, which are south of Highway 6 between South Gilbert and Sycamore streets.
The properties also had to be in a condition that could be addressed by the city’s rehabilitation budget. And city officials did not want to displace any renters in order to acquire a property.
Now, however, the city has an agreement to buy a duplex at 1232-34 Sandusky Drive — between Taylor Drive and Davis Street — for $124,000.
The tenants vacated the property after an April 17 fire damaged both units.
“The fire was in one side of the duplex,” said Erika Kubly, the city’s neighborhood services coordinator. “It’s essentially down to the studs now. That unit will be completely renovated. The other side we’ll do similar upgrades.”
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Once the purchase is complete, the city likely will update the kitchen and windows and ensure the roof, windows, flooring and paint are in good condition.
“We want to make sure the buyer isn’t going to incur any major costs in the first few years,” Kubly said.
Energy efficiency also will be a priority, Hightshoe said.
Buyers for the two units will have to meet income guidelines and earn less than 80 percent of the area median income. Per federal guidelines, that means a family of four could make up to $75,500. A two-person household could make up to $60,400, Hightshoe said.
Buyers also will participate in free homebuyer education classes.
The cost of each unit will depend on how much rehabilitation costs, Hightshoe said.
“It will be very affordable,” she said. “Our goal is no more than $90,000. We’ll provide down payment assistance in addition to that.”
The South District Home Investment Partnership Program is possible through the HOME Investment Partnership Program — a federal initiative within the Department of Housing and Urban Development designed to allow communities to buy, build or rehabilitate affordable housing to rent or sell to low-income people.
The city has received $100,000 in HOME funds, and the South District program also received $140,000 in city general funds to buy two duplexes and sell to four low-income buyers. Up to $60,000 will be spent per unit on rehab and down payment assistance.
Hightshoe said the investment partnership program has benefits beyond providing four low-income buyers with a homeownership opportunity.
Neighborhoods with higher rates of homeownership have lower nuisance rates, she said.
The Taylor Drive and Davis Street area is about 90 percent rental and has higher levels of nuisance complaints than any area of the city outside of downtown, Hightshoe said.
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Many of the homes in the neighborhood date from the 1960s and 70s and are in need of some improvement, Hightshoe added.
Once work is done on the duplex later this year, it will first be marketed to Taylor Drive and Davis Street residents and then opened to residents of the South District project area.
The city still is searching for a second duplex to buy and rehabilitate.
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