- Associated Press - Sunday, August 28, 2016

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Efforts to revitalize one of Dubuque’s oldest neighborhoods will continue under a new agreement between the city and one of Iowa’s largest nonprofit affordable housing providers.

City Council members this week approved a new agreement with Community Housing Initiatives to continue efforts to promote home ownership and residential development in the Washington Neighborhood.

Council Member Jake Rios, who represents the area, said he is hopeful the continued investment will re-establish the neighborhood as a desirable area for families young and old.

“I remember moving to Dubuque 10 years ago and being told, ‘The streets named after presidents are bad streets,’” Rios told the Telegraph Herald (https://bit.ly/2btyJDI ). “To me, I think it’s a better neighborhood for people to live in, but we can’t let up. We can’t allow ourselves to fall back. … It would be a detriment to the city.”

CHI will provide a minimum of more than $1.5 million in a construction line of credit to continue efforts to purchase, rehabilitate and resell abandoned and derelict houses. The city will invest $600,000, providing $25,000 per unit for acquisition or rehabilitation costs to restore 24 homes in the neighborhood over the next four years.

Under the agreement, the city will inspect homes to be purchased and rehabbed and develop the scope of work, drawings and bid packages for CHI to distribute to contractors. The city also will inspect the homes prior to their resale to make sure work was completed satisfactorily.

Buyers of the homes, too, likely would become eligible for a homebuyer assistance program administered through the city, said Kris Neyen, rehabilitation programs supervisor.

The city provides $10,000 to $25,000 through a no-interest loan to qualified buyers, based on family size and household income, to put toward the cost of purchasing homes in the neighborhood.

The city partnered with CHI and Dubuque Bank and Trust in March 2013 to acquire, rehab and resell abandoned and dilapidated homes to provide quality, affordable housing in Dubuque’s urban core.

Over the past three years, CHI has purchased 23 properties, 12 of which have been rehabbed. Eleven of those have been sold to owner-occupant families, while one still is up for sale. Nine other homes are under construction currently.

CHI has spent more than $2 million to date, with the city providing $325,000 worth of subsidies, according to David Harris, who serves as CHI’s Dubuque coordinator and who is the former City of Dubuque housing director.

The result has led to increased home values. The total assessed value of the first nine properties CHI purchased and rehabbed increased by nearly $400,000, or about $44,000 per property, according to city records.

On average, CHI homes have sold for about $92,500 compared to an average cost of $107,000 to rehab the properties. However, four homes recently sold for at least $100,000, indicating a strengthening real estate market in the neighborhood, Harris said.

Appraisers now are using CHI sales as a basis for setting home values, due to the relative lack of home sales in the area prior to its work in the neighborhood, according to Realtor Mona Asbell Burbach.

Harris said CHI hopes to continue that trend and create a “market equilibrium,” where it can align the cost of acquiring and purchasing homes with their completed rehab value, eliminating the need for continuing public subsidies.

Burbach, who grew up in the area, said the city’s and CHI’s efforts to convert dilapidated rentals into quality, affordable, owner-occupied homes is leading to a neighborhood resurgence. Replacing poorly maintained houses, duplexes and triplexes with row houses, townhomes and single-family homes can help disperse the dense downtown rental population and foster community ownership, she said.

“We’re seeing a return to what it was - a diverse neighborhood community with majority home ownership,” she said. “It’s making home ownership a lot easier for people who would otherwise have to put off for years or (for whom it) would have been unattainable. It’s attracting young professionals, couples, single mothers and a woman in her 60s who bought her first home. It’s attracting a great mix of people who are excited about living downtown again.”

Washington Neighborhood resident Kate Pineda Toskey, too, said CHI work spurred neighbors to make improvements to their homes, with new landscaping, windows, siding and paint.

“(The transformation), it’s not going to happen overnight, but step by step, you see the effect ripple down into the other houses in little steps,” Toskey said. “Overall, residents are beginning to show more pride and ownership in the neighborhood.”


Information from: Telegraph Herald, https://www.thonline.com

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