The Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago works across the Seventh District to improve the socioeconomic prospects of low- and moderate-income people, in addition to working with community leaders to bring development and reinvestment opportunities to underserved communities. Our district comprises urban centers, suburban, exurban, and large rural areas, and the issues facing these areas vary widely. This article explores the significant rental housing shortage in Iowa City (Iowa’s fifth largest city and the county seat of Johnson County) stemming mostly from the large University of Iowa (UI) student population, of which the school houses less than 20 percent. Accordingly, local residents must contend with a large population of students vying for the same, limited supply of rental units. The student population has contributed to increasing rents and a deeper deficit of affordable housing.
CDPS began working this year with the Place-Based Inclusion Working Group, a group of university professionals and affordable housing advocates that organized to formulate strategies and encourage UI administrators to work in partnership with community groups to address the city's housing shortage. In early May 2016, CDPS facilitated a meeting with UI administrators, local government leaders, and housing advocates with university professionals who have entered partnerships to improve local communities. A separate, public meeting with (other) affordable housing advocates, residents, and students provided a means to share best practices and findings from the first meeting more broadly.
This article comprises two main elements; the first is a review of this process and those meetings. It begins with an overview of how UI policies have impacted affordable housing markets in Johnson County, the county home of Iowa City. The second section describes university partnerships that involve institutional engagement to address local housing issues and other local needs, shared by three university professionals from Drexel University, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The conclusion is a short description of next steps.