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Bringing Bold Ideas from Iowa City to Newton County: A Vision for Progress

Mayor Pro Tem Megan Alter and Councilwoman Laura Bergus

Dear Neighbors,

Greetings from the heart of innovation, where cities thrive on collaboration and creative solutions! I recently had the privilege of exploring the vibrant streets of Iowa City, Iowa, and engaging with visionary minds from the Mayor, City Council, and County Chair. The experience was an eye-opener, igniting a spark of inspiration that I am eager to share with you, the esteemed Board of Commissioners, and our beloved City Council.

Embracing Growth Beyond Our Borders

Elected officials have a responsibility that extends beyond jurisdictional boundaries. My visit to Iowa City reinforced the importance of seeking inspiration beyond our immediate surroundings. Collaborating with fellow government officials and attending educational conferences enables us to uncover solutions to shared challenges. Without this open-minded approach, we might miss the opportunity to bring invaluable resources and fresh ideas back to our beloved Newton County.

Iowa City, nestled in Johnson County with a population of 75,000, stands as a testament to the power of innovation. A college town home to the esteemed University of Iowa, the city has implemented transformative programs that hold valuable lessons for us all.

Affordable Housing Action Plan and South District Home Investment Program: Creating Homes, Building Communities

At the heart of Iowa City's vision are its "Affordable Housing Action Plan" and the "South District Home Investment Program." These initiatives epitomize community-centric progress. The city's commitment to affordable housing is unwavering, as evidenced by its efforts to encourage reinvestment and create housing opportunities for existing residents.

The "Home Investment Partnership Program" stands as a beacon of hope. Iowa City purchases, rehabilitates, and sells duplex units in the south district, granting residents the option to rent. The funds collected from these rentals are channeled into a housing account, enabling the city to purchase more homes and ensure ongoing maintenance. This virtuous cycle advances multiple goals:

  • Affordable Homeownership-The program opens doors to low-income families, fostering dreams of homeownership.

  • Preservation of Character-Iowa City takes pride in maintaining the unique essence of its neighborhoods.

  • Balanced Housing-Striving for equilibrium between rental and owner-occupied homes.

  • Encouraging Investment-Inspiring confidence in residents to invest in their communities.

  • Safe and Attractive Living-Prioritizing the quality of life for both renters and homeowners.

For participation, residents must have an income below 80% of the area's median income, accounting for all adult household members. This inclusive approach is underscored by free homebuyer education classes, further empowering individuals on their path to ownership. To facilitate entry, down payment assistance is also provided.


Learn More about Iowa City's Home Investment Program

(Watch the Video)

Fare-Free Iowa City: Navigating Towards a Greener Future

In their pursuit of accessible, sustainable transportation, Iowa City launched the "Fare-Free Iowa City" initiative, a remarkable endeavor funded in part by ARPA dollars. This two-year free transit pilot, set in motion on August 1st, heralds a new era in mobility for their community.

In their pursuit of accessible, sustainable transportation, Iowa City launched the "Fare-Free Iowa City" initiative, a remarkable endeavor funded in part by ARPA dollars. This two-year free transit pilot, set in motion on August 1st, heralds a new era in mobility for their community. By embracing electric transportation buses, Iowa City has demonstrated its commitment to both innovation and environmental responsibility. With the "Fare-Free Iowa City" program, residents enjoy a seamless experience:

  • Smart Planning- The Translate app aids in trip planning, offering real-time updates on arrivals.

  • Digital Guidance- A comprehensive digital map showcases all routes and stops.

  • Extensive Network- A network of 13 bus routes ensures comprehensive coverage.

This pilot program aims to study the effects of free transit, striving to enhance access to safe, reliable, and eco-friendly transportation.


Spotlight on Iowa City's Shelter House: Pioneering Change for the Homeless

Before we delve into the details, I invite you to take a moment to explore Iowa's very own Shelter House: This facility stands as a testament to its commitment to creating a safe haven for those experiencing homelessness or living unsheltered.

Introducing the Housing First Project Allow me to introduce Cross Park Place, a remarkable testament to the Housing First concept. This facility comprises 24 single-occupancy apartments, set to open its doors this month. What sets these apartments apart is their focus on residents categorized under FUSE – Frequent User System Engagement. These are individuals who find themselves caught in a cycle of jails, shelters, emergency rooms, or other crisis services. Breaking the Cycle with Compassion The essence of the Housing First model is compassion, understanding that a safe and stable home environment is the cornerstone of recovery. Cross Park Place aims to break the chains of adversity by providing not only living spaces but also common areas that foster a sense of community and well-being. Imagine a facility equipped with shared spaces such as a laundry room, as well as an exam room for case workers, health professionals, and behavioral health experts. This holistic approach recognizes that healing involves more than a roof over one's head; it's about nurturing physical and mental well-being. In sharing this remarkable project, we're reminded that addressing homelessness requires innovative thinking and unwavering commitment. As we envision our own future, let's embrace these stories of change as catalysts for inspiration. Uniting for Progress Neighbors, the tale of Iowa City's Shelter House and the Housing First Project holds lessons for us all. As the Board of Commissioners and the City Council, we're empowered to foster change within our own community.

  • Compassion and Empathy: Prioritize the well-being of our homeless neighbors, understanding that stability is the foundation for transformation.

  • Collaborative Solutions: Engage local organizations, service providers, and volunteers to create a holistic support system.

  • Holistic Care: Strive to offer comprehensive services that address not only housing but also physical and mental health needs.

  • Long-Term Vision- Craft sustainable solutions that provide ongoing support and pathways to self-sufficiency.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we absorb the brilliance of Iowa City's innovations, let us collectively envision a County that thrives on collaboration, accessible housing, and sustainable transit. The lessons learned from their transformative programs are invaluable as we mold our future. To implement similar initiatives here, we must embark on a journey of collaboration and strategy. Let's forge partnerships with local organizations, secure funding through creative avenues, and harness the power of community engagement. By working hand in hand, the Board of Commissioners, City Council, and our esteemed residents can materialize these ideas, shaping a County that is inclusive, dynamic, and forward-thinking. Let's start conversations, ignite ideas, and bring our vision to life. Together, we can make Newton County a shining example of progress and community-driven change. With warm regards, Commish Sanders

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