UniverCity finishes remodeling first house

By Colleen Kennedy

The Daily Iowan, U. Iowa via UWIRE

The Iowa City house at 310 Douglas Court has undergone an extreme makeover.

In just one month, it transformed from a rundown rental property to a modern house ready for long-term residents, featuring fresh paint, updated appliances, and more space.

UniverCity, a partnership between the University of Iowa and Iowa City, poured thousands of dollars into renovations on the one-story house, starting work May 24 and finishing June 16.

It is the first home to undergo improvements under the UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership program, which strives to develop well-managed rental properties in Iowa City to foster relationships with the community, said Steve Long, a community-development coordinator.

“There is a dramatic improvement from where the house was,” said David Powers, a housing-rehabilitation specialist, as he walked along the freshly paved walkway to the home.

UniverCity purchased the house for $85,000. And after installing a new kitchen, bathroom, carpet, laundry machines, and drywall, among other projects, the partnership will sell it at the same price with a little interest — making the total price tag roughly $86,000. Two other major renovation to the house included a 6-inch expansion of the hallway, giving more space and making the house wheel-chair accessible.

Using funds from a $1.25 million state I-JOBS grant and several community groups, the UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership aims to improve homes in Iowa City neighborhoods for long-term owners rather than renters.

The I-JOBS grant pays up to $50,000 in improvements per house, said Sarah Walz, an associate Iowa City planner. The second home under renovation, 517 S. Governor St., should be completed within the next two weeks.

Built in 1915 and purchased at $180,000, the three-bedroom, one-bath house is being remodeled to update its historic look.

“We are hoping our work will spur others in the neighborhood as well,” Powers said.

The partnership has already approved an applicant to live in the Governor Street residence, and the members are still reviewing applications for the Douglas Court house.

The Iowa City Housing Authority donated $100,000 to the partnership, and the UI put $200,000 into the program, Jeff Davidson, the director of planning and community development, wrote in a memo to the Iowa City City Council.

“The intent is to improve relationships with students and families living in residential areas close to campus, as well as boost home ownership in those areas,” said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

Powers, along with community-development interns Rebecca Raab and Erika Skemp, look for homes that may be suitable with the program and its budget.

“We set up meetings with home sellers and buyers and work with applicants,” Raab said. Powers then inspects the homes, later working with contractors and overseeing the work.

Once Powers determines a home eligible, UniverCity staff members tour it with the landlord or owners.

A committee made up of UI representatives, members of the Iowa Home Builders Association, a real-estate agent, a banker, a historic-preservation specialist, and members of neighborhood associations makes the final decision.

The panel has toured more than 40 homes so far, including three houses on Wednesday, Long said. UniverCity also owns two additional houses on Douglas Court. Purchasing the houses can cost between $85,000 to $180,000.

Davidson and Long said there are plans to purchase five more houses in the next five weeks.

“The committee evaluates houses based on whether it will fulfill the mission of the organization, and gut reaction of whether it is right for the program,” Walz said.

Read more here: http://www.dailyiowan.com/2010/06/25/Metro/17700.html
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