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Iowa City expanding program to support home ownership

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Iowa City leaders recently voted to dramatically expand the South District Program, which reduces barriers to home ownership for low-income residents.

The program takes duplexes in need of repairs, renovates them, and sells them to people who've previously struggled owning a home. Through tax dollars and funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the city can offer mortgage payments that are cheaper than the average rate for a rental in the area.

"Now they can afford to own and live there on a long-term basis. They don't have to worry about rental increases," Tracy Hightshoe said, director of Neighborhood and Development Services for the city.

The program started in 2019 and has helped three people with home ownership since. On May 18, the City Council voted to purchase eight new duplexes (16 units) for the program. In total, there will be 22 units in the program.

"Now that word's getting out and people are seeing the quality of the improvements, we're getting more applications," Hightshoe said.

Many people in the South District --which has a high concentration of low-income and minority residents-- say it's great to see investment in an area that has historically lacked it.

"Most of the investment that goes on in Iowa City goes on in the downtown district. We need investment in this area," Eric Harris said, vice president of the South District neighborhood Association.

Harris says they asked the city to keep growing this program because it attracts people who will really care about the neighborhood.

"If you make a purchase of a home here, that means that you're investing your future to stay here and raise your kids in this neighborhood," Harris said.

Hightshoe says the purchase of the eight new duplexes will be finalized in July. They will not force anyone out, rather wait for people to move out naturally. The city will act as their landlord.

She hopes to have the eight new duplexes renovated and filled in the next few years.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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