City debates development of affordable housing


Mayor John Halia and At-Large Representative Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen listen during a City Council meeting on Jan. 16, 2018.

Chris Anderson

Ames City Council debated the development of affordable housing at the old Ames Middle School property at 321 State Ave. at their Tuesday night meeting.

The city first considered acquiring the lot at 321 State Ave. in 2015 with the intention to create affordable homeownership opportunities. Since then, the city has been working on how to move forward with the plan.

J-CORP proposed to develop housing on the site, but the city recently ended negotiations with the developer over concerns of the cost, amount of subsidy per unit, and types of housing proposed. This leaves the city with $900,000 in unspent funds designated for infrastructure construction that could be committed to the site.

Members of the local neighborhood association spoke to council about concerns they had with how the council could potentially move forward. The members of the neighborhood voiced their support for single family owner occupied homes, as opposed to rental properties or apartments.

Councilwoman Gloria Betcher sympathized with the local homeowners, as she shares similar concerns living in nearby area. She agreed with members of the community who spoke, favoring distributing lower income residents over the area rather than in a single apartment building.

The reasoning behind this is that it gives better opportunities to low income earners, and reduces the problem of crime and illegal drug use. Members of the local neighborhood association voiced fears of growing crime and drug use in the area.

Councilwoman Bronwyn Beatty-Hansen voiced her concern for the amount of subsidy the city would effectively be contributing to each home development, which would be lower in a multi-family development than a single-family.

“I wish we could consider multi-family homes, but I’m hearing loudly and clearly the neighborhood doesn’t want that,” Beatty-Hansen said.

Councilman Tim Gartin felt that this is the city’s best opportunity to build affordable owner-occupied homes, and supported building single family homes in the area.

Another point being debated was that of extending Tripp St. through the property, and zoning five plots of land in the area for residential use. This was the city staff’s preferred way to move forward.

After much debate, the council decided to go ahead on planning to extend Tripp St. through the property, so as to provide infrastructure for future developments, but tabled any other decisions as to the nature of developments in the area to a future meeting.