City Council candidates address affordable housing at AMOS forum

Lauren Klein

All candidates for the upcoming City Council elections were present or represented at the AMOS forum on Monday, Oct. 14, at the Ames United Church of Christ. Candidates were called upon to address their stance on affordable housing in Ames.

AMOS, which stands for A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy, is a nonpartisan community organization that organizes citizens to call on decision-makers to address the concerns of the community.

The Rev. Jonathan Page, of the United Church of Christ, opened the forum by explaining it was designed to inform voters of the stance of City Council candidates on the issue of affordable housing.

“An informed electorate is an electorate that votes more frequently and also that votes intelligently on different issues,” Page said.

Jan Flora, of the United Church of Christ, said affordable housing is an issue that comes up continually at AMOS House Meetings when determining which issues impact the Ames Community. With the enrollment level at Iowa State and an increase in the private sector this issue has continued to expand.

AMOS pinpointed specific problems related to affordable housing. These include problems with the allocation of grants, the limits of zoning codes and the related issue of limited transportation. AMOS asked candidates to share their positions on specific goals related to these issues.

Current zoning and rental codes make it difficult to incorporate large amounts of housing into small available areas.

Mayor Ann Campbell said that when rental policies were put into place they made projections about where the population of Ames would be at by 2030 and that we have already reached that. She said she believes these policies and codes do need to be looked at again.

Campbell said there is a need for housing on all levels and that the need for affordable housing is effected by university enrollment.

“The impact of the spike in University enrollment and the pressure that that puts on the community indeed has more than just a ripple effect,” Campbell said. “It has a bulldozer effect on affordable housing.”

Another issue AMOS asked candidates to address alongside the housing issue was the potential for funding a “Kids Ride Free” CyRide program designed to help kids whose families are at all income levels reach after school activities.

Chris Nelson, candidate for the 4th Ward, addressed the fact many CyRide busses are already at capacity.

At-Large candidate Amber Corrieri expanded on this by stating that while there is a $35,000 cost associated with the “Kids Ride Free” program, this cost would not include the fact that more busses, more staff and expanded routes may have to be added to accommodate the program

Candidates also offered their stance on the possibility of an Affordable Housing Commission, making low-income housing a priority for federal funding, inserting a line item into the city budget to provide financial support for low-income housing projects and the creation of a city staff position that would work with nonprofit organizations to secure federal, state and private funding.

While the candidates were asked to express definitively if they were for or against these changes, candidate Peter Orazem did not believe it was that easy.

“This is an issue that we can address, but not necessarily in this black and white arena,” he said.

The elections for City Council and the mayor will be Nov. 5.