Economic & Racial Justice

Tackle the affordable housing crisis

Iowa City has a disproportionately high cost of living for young folks, elderly folks, and lower-income households. We must do more to make Iowa City more equitable and affordable for all people. The City of Iowa City has created a 15-step affordable housing action plan and we must continue to support that plan and expand on new and innovative solutions so that people are not cost-burdened.

A cost-burdened home is defined as one that pays 30% of the household income or more on housing and housing-related expenses. Locally, Iowa City has the highest rate of cost-burdened households in the county.

HUD’s Comprehensive Housing Affordability Strategy data set [2007-2011 CHAS] states that Iowa City has a total of 10,059 rental and owner households with a housing cost burden greater than 30% of their income (6,779 of which have a cost burden greater than 50% of their income). This means most people who are cost-burdened are paying 50% or more for their housing. This is horrible, and we need to do something about it now.

The American Community Survey data (used by the Johnson County Affordable Housing Coalition) is also telling. Almost 80% of renters ages 15-24 are cost-burdened, and almost 60% of renters 65 and older are cost-burdened by paying at least 30% of their income on gross rent. In Johnson County, about 8% of households are either Black or Hispanic, but according to lending data, they only account for about 4% of new mortgages.

One way to ease this crisis may be housing cooperatives. As the President of the River City Housing Collective, I see this model work, and I think it could be expanded in this community. We can utilize effective programs like UniverCity to convert rental units to more owner-occupied homes that have the potential to be converted into cooperative housing. Members of a housing co-op can decide their own rent, share the cost of living, and provide community resources other living situations cannot.

Provide reliable and effective public transportation

It’s been too long since we updated our transportation system. The need for a good public transportation system is dire, and funding is a major issue here. But this is an area where we may be able to solve multiple issues at once. Parking in Iowa City is a major problem, and if we enhance our bus service, people will not have to rely on cars nearly as much. I will support the bus review the city is currently taking, and I will encourage collaboration amongst all transit systems in the area.

Because public transportation acts as the mobile fabric of cities, it needs to run in an effective, sustainable, and accessible way. When rethinking how our transportation system can work for all people, we must think about designing a system that keeps our most vulnerable communities in mind: disabled people, elderly people, and children. If we approach public transportation this way, we can ensure that everyone will be able to ride around our city safely and efficiently.

The buses we currently have are from the 1980s, and require many repairs. With new creative systems of revenue in place, we can secure electric buses that will help reduce our carbon emissions. The current City Council has already agreed to help reduce community-wide greenhouse gases by 26-28% for the year 2025, and 80% by 2050 (from the base year of 2005). These are large goals, and we need actionable steps in place to meet them.

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Our buses currently run in a way that isn’t efficient for many residents. Whether it’s bus schedules or bus routes, there is a lot of work to be done. The bus service does not allow many people to get to the grocery store or work on Sundays. The free shuttle also disappears in the summer after students leave, and long-term residents are cut off from this amenity. There’s also an extreme lack of bus shelters, which is especially difficult for people who have to wait in harsh weather, or in the midst of winter.

As of right now, Iowa City runs on a “hub-and-spokes” plan (imagine a spider’s body) where the buses go to a central location before transitioning to other major areas. For many people who need to get to another location around Iowa City promptly, this can spell disaster. Sometimes people wait up to an hour and a half to get across town. With routes transitioning to circular system rather than a “hub-and-spokes” system, we will see many of these issues disappear.

The biggest problem here is acquiring funding, and the easiest thing to do is to just say we have none. Instead, we must come up with new, creative solutions: a certain number of yearly parking passes sold to residents for public lots which could fetch a high price, a new advertisement plan for the city buses which gives local businesses a better deal than large corporations when it comes to buying out bus space inside or outside the buses, or sponsorship programs to help fund new buses or bus stop shelters.

Building a stronger working class

We must advocate for the Johnson County minimum wage of $10.10, and do everything we can to encourage businesses to support this progress.

I want to extend bargaining with public sector workers, and I would support including permissive subjects so that negotiations will be less limited than what the recent state legislation would allow for. Throughout this uncertainty, Iowa City should continue to advocate for workers in public unions, and find creative solutions to reinforce our public workers’ right to bargain. I am willing to listen to those with ideas on how to implement smart and effective solutions at the local level. I believe that a strong and healthy public work-force improves both the public sector, and the private sector.

Through the city’s use of TIF, I would like to ensure that specific standards are met so that we avoid taking bids from contractors that utilize misclassification to minimize the rights of their workers, and attempt to define and enforce what we believe to be a “responsible” bid. The lowest bid does not mean the greatest quality or greatest treatment of workers. The city should aim to look for affordability, while ensuring that workers are treated well.