Some Neighbors Oppose Plan to Reuse School for Housing
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A plan to turn an unneeded Cedar Rapids school building into affordable housing goes before the city council next month. But it won’t go with the blessing of some who live in the neighborhood.
The Affordable Housing Network, a non-profit group, wants to completely re-do the old Monroe School on Pioneer Avenue S.E. The group wants to create 19 apartments inside the old school itself and put up 24 single family homes outside on the old school grounds. The entire planned urban development would go by the name “Monroe Villas.”
But a fair number of people in the neighborhood are not entirely pleased with the plan.
On Thursday, the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 8-0 to approve the development and send it on to the entire city council. At least 40 neighbors showed up for the meeting and those who attended say most argued against the development.
Joe Lock, executive director of the Affordable Housing Network, said reusing an existing building and providing good rental housing for working families is a priority for the city.
“I’m excited we can do what’s called adaptive reuse. We’ll take this school built in 1961, that has great bones and was well maintained by the district, and it will make phenomenal apartments for families,” Lock said.
But some neighbors complain there are already too many multi-family apartments nearby mixed in with the single family homes. Some in the area also fear more subsidized housing units would just hurt property values further.
Jay Wurtele, one neighbor, said he was hoping for a small business or office or another option for the old Monroe School.
“I don’t know what it would take for a developer to make that into an assisted living area, but I would be a lot more favorable with those two ideas rather than another low-income housing area,” Wurtele said.
Lock said one misconception by neighbors is the targeted tenant. The construction would have to be subsidized with tax credits to make rent affordable. But he said it’s not “voucher-type” housing and tenants would have to earn between $30,000 and $45,000 a year to qualify.
Lock also said even if the full city council approves the plan, the group still has to win a competitive application process to get the tax credit award. And the group won’t know about that until sometime next spring. That means construction couldn’t start before fall of 2014 at the earliest.
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