Dubuque advocates, leaders disagree on how to add housing to city

A project transforming a historic building in Dubuque into new apartments is moving forward.
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 10:39 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - A project transforming a historic building in Dubuque into new apartments is moving forward.

Tuesday night, city council members approved a Development Agreement between the city and Farley & Loetscher, LLC for 801 Jackson Street.

“We really haven’t developed housing in Dubuque in any real numbers since the 1990s,” said Mayor Brad Cavanagh at Tuesday night’s meeting.

According to Dubuque officials, the city needs 1,100 units in the next 5 years.

“We’re seeing rent rates for units that maybe shouldn’t be collecting as much rent, but they can get it ‘cause there’s no other unit available for people,” said Alexis Steger, Housing & Community Development Director for the city.

Farley and Loetscher is looking to address some of that need by investing 25 million dollars in rehabbing 801 Jackson Street, which has sat vacant for several years. The move would add 126 units to the community.

Still, housing advocates say it’s not enough to add units to a crunched market. Members of the group Iowa CCI asked that 20% of the units be reserved for lower-income people.

I want somewhere my kids and young kids in this community can thrive, not just survive,” said Wendy Hopp, a member of Iowa CCI.

“Government investment without an ask or requirement that benefits people is corporate welfare,” said Jaime Izaguirre, another Iowa CCI member.

Critics had said only high-income renters would be able to afford living in the building, but Councilwoman Katy Wethal said that won’t be the case. She said “80 plus units” will rent for $1,200 a month, three units will exceed $2,000 a month, and the remaining units will be at or below $1,000.

Mayor Cavanagh said the community was at the beginning of the discussion, but that all sides essentially wanted the same end goal, and to get to more housing, the city has to act.

“Right now we need to incentivize housing, period. We have got to get this moving,” said Cavanagh.