Submitted by Cliff Weldon, MIDAS
After decades of population and job loss, the MIDAS region has started to reverse that trend. The arrival of this growth comes with some unfamiliar challenges to the region. One of the most daunting is finding adequate housing for the new residents. There is simply not enough housing stock to meet projected demand. This has spurred an interest among developers for new housing projects and rehabilitation of existing buildings into apartments, but these efforts will only meet a portion of the housing need. Much of the remainder of the housing needs must be met through rental of existing housing, some not in good shape.
Community leaders have expressed a desire to ensure that rental properties, whether new, old, single or multifamily, are safe and meet minimum standards. A rental inspection program is needed, but only our largest city, Fort Dodge, has enough demand to sustain the expense of administering a program.
Over a year ago a number of community leaders began discussions on how to solve this problem. As an early participant in these discussions, MIDAS offered to lead the effort to establish a regional housing inspection program.
Discussions were expanded to our entire six-county region, and numerous meetings were held to determine the level of interest. A core group of five or six communities indicated a desire to proceed. MIDAS has sought a housing inspector to perform inspections and assist with the development of an agreed set of housing inspection standards. MIDAS borrowed the Fort Dodge program documentation to prepare templates for participating cities to use in adopting housing standards, implementing an inspection program and developing administrative procedures. The housing inspector revised the Fort Dodge inspection checklists. These steps have been completed and we are now finalizing a fee schedule. Once that has been completed we will offer cities the opportunity to enroll in the program.
The MIDAS program as it is currently envisioned requires participating cities (or counties for unincorporated areas) to adopt all or part of one of two housing standards. The next step is to adopt a housing program ordinance. MIDAS will provide assistance with drafting ordinances. Then cities will identify their rental properties and, depending on the frequency of desired inspections, provide a list of half or a third of the properties to be inspected in the first year. Our anticipated start date for our first inspections is 1 July.
The MIDAS inspector will schedule appointments with the landlords and conduct inspections, to include follow-up inspections as needed. The MIDAS inspector will provide written inspection reports back to MIDAS, who will forward the reports to the cities with an invoice for the completed inspections. MIDAS pays the inspector, and the inspector moves on to the next city.
Cities will issue rental permits to property owners who pass inspection and will also decide what enforcement action to take if there are properties that refuse to comply or cannot pass inspection.
The end result should be a common baseline for rental properties in the region, resulting in higher-quality rental stock.
Submitted by Nichole L. Moore, CVPD
Chariton Valley Planning & Development celebrated its 10-year anniversary as a council of governments with an evening event February 21, 2017, at Honey Creek Resort. The event was well attended by representatives from local communities, counties, economic development and transportation partners from across the region. The evening was titled “Making Projects Possible” and included speakers from multiple agencies. Each agency educated participants on the funding opportunities it sponsors and how to partner with the sources for communities to “make projects possible.” Iowa state offices presenting were Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Transportation, USDA Rural Development, ADLM Environmental Health Department and ADLM Emergency Management.
The special guest for the evening was Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham. Director Durham spoke about the job and investment growth areas in the state and CDBG block grants available for water, sewer, housing rehabilitation, community facilities, downtown revitalization and more.
USDA Rural Development programs focus on revitalization, healthcare, local food production, renewable energy, job creation, water and environment, community infrastructure, emergency services and housing.
IDNR discussed the State Revolving Loan Fund. This is a primary funding source for communities to improve drinking water systems or wastewater infrastructure. A second program that is beneficial to jurisdictions is the Derelict Building Program, which can help rehabilitate or remove derelict buildings.
IDOT representatives presented on multiple programs available to communities. Major elements are the roadways and bridges that are maintained throughout the region. Additional programs administered include trail development and maintenance, transit services and other transportation alternative programs.
ADLM Environmental Health explained the importance of health inspections of a variety of businesses and public entities. ADLM Emergency Management illustrated the importance of event reporting, disaster mitigation and disaster recovery. Iowa Homeland Security offers several grant programs related to disaster prevention and recovery.
The evening’s resources, articles and pictures can be found at www.charitonvalleyplanning.com.
Submitted by Mike Norris, SEIRPC
Construction is progressing at the Tama project in downtown Burlington. Framing has been completed on the one-, two- and three-bedroom units. An infill building was torn down to create a courtyard for the tenants, pictured to the right. This will also allow for additional windows in the units. Drywall and finishing work should start within the next couple of weeks.
The developer received a $3 million Community Development Block Grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority to create 48 units on the upper floors. The developer also received $200,000 to alleviate storm water issues.
This money will be spent on permeable pavers, flower gardens and a green roof area.
This project is one of the properties included in the “Upstairs Downtown” tour offered by Downtown Partners.
As we approach the end of our fiscal year, it has been a whirlwind of knowledge understanding the complexity of services each COG serves. The association set out a task to increase awareness of the association, network with complementary organizations and focus on multiregional projects that COGs can come together to work on. Continuing to improve upon our proposals allowed us to be awarded a new contract for physical site inspections with IEDA recently.
I believe we have made significant progress towards those goals along with a new name, visual representation, website and members portal. I look forward to what the rest of this year brings and to a new fiscal year.
New challenges in funding at the federal and state levels will force us to continue to make sure we let legislators know of the important projects each COG has worked on or is planning to work on. As we have just ended our legislative session, the work to restore and increase our COG assistance begins now. We must continue to sell and market our value to the state of Iowa.
It has been a pleasure to serve as your executive director. As we start the planning of our next fiscal year, I know we will encounter a few challenges but most importantly — exciting opportunities.
Carl Lingen, Executive Director
Iowa Association of Councils of Governments
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” - John Quincy Adams
The following details a series of events and coordinated meetings that I have been involved with concerning the complexities and potential consequences associated with the passage of HF 291, the collective bargaining bill. I understand not all COGs operate transit systems; however, I believe the information is valuable for everyone to be aware of.
There have been several transit agencies who have received objection letters from unions in response to their recent grant applications. These objections relate to the Department of Labor’s Section 13(c) certification process pursuant to 49 U.S.C. Section 5339(b) legislation. There are also several transit agencies whose collective bargaining agreements expire on June 30.
Representatives from Iowa DOT invited transit agencies that will be immediately impacted along with Carl Lingen to a conference call last Friday. The purpose of the conference was to inform, provide guidance from Iowa DOT and discuss how best to proceed.
“Anyone who isn't confused really doesn't understand the situation.” -Edward R. Murrow
Options Identified by Iowa DOT
The Iowa DOT presented options on how to move forward, with each garnering pros and cons. The IPTA Task Force met on Monday to discuss these options and develop a strategy on how best to move forward in conjunction with Iowa DOT.
The Road Forward
There have been many changes in the past week. There was talk of getting an amendment that would create a clean legislative “fix” and essentially exempt transit workers. The amendment was possibly going to go into a standings bill. However, we found out yesterday that legislative leadership is not planning on drafting an amendment to this issue, as the administration believes they have the statutory tools necessary to prevent loss of federal funds.
The IPTA task force has met and reviewed all options and has outlined the following strategy.
The purpose of this strategy is to obtain guidance from the DOL from their rulings, which we do not have. We are hopeful that a “fix” to cure any identified violations can be accomplished through an administrative process. Once a ruling and/or additional guidance is obtained from the DOL, we will have a better roadmap of how to proceed.
This strategy also does not rule out having to do a legislative fix, possibly in the next legislative session. However, with no system showing harm, no guidance from DOL and a lack of time, we do not feel a legislative fix could be achieved at this time.
A Concern We Are Investigating
A concern was raised during our Task Force and Executive Board meeting: Could all transit systems be in jeopardy of having grant funds withheld if there was one transit system with an outstanding objection? In talking with FTA Region VII and FTA in Washington, D.C., we are receiving different opinions and will be meeting to discuss in more detail. We will be sure to verify this information and get back to you all.