Thirty-four percent of owner-occupied housing units in the state of Iowa were built before the year 1950 according to Iowa Economic Development Authority.
When the year is adjusted to 1979, almost three-fourths (71%) of units were built before 1979.
Groups such as the Iowa Economic Development Authority readily acknowledge that there is a "strong need" for rehabilitation programs across the state that can keep up with demands.
So, since the early 1990s, the state of Iowa has run housing rehabilitation programs (through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development) that offer funding for low-income single family homeowners to do both health and safety repairs.
Up to $24,999 per home is available to low-income homeowners (typically defined as those whose annual gross income does not exceed 80% of median for the area) who apply for state-offered Community Development Block Grants. In 2018, nearly $5.2 million was set aside for the program.
For 2019, $4 million was made available to cities and counties under 50,000 and the state took applicants for the grants through early May (the recipients won't be announced until July 1).
In Mason City (as is the case in other areas), the focus for such owner-occupied rehab programs tends to be on specific neighborhoods.
According to Development Services Director Steven Van Steenhuyse, the latest focus for the rehabbing is in the East Old Garfield School Neighborhood near St. Joseph's Catholic Church.
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In past years, city officials worked to assist five low-to moderate-income homeowners in bringing their properties into compliance with the city's building and housing codes and well as HUD's housing quality standards. Work would include general, electrical, plumbing and mechanical.
Cathy Burtness, executive director of the Mason City Housing Authority, said that such rehab programs are a benefit to the neighborhood because they encourage other properties to improve their homes.
"It also allows for the properties to be brought up to City Code, making them safer for the residents."
Mason City Housing Authority has also worked with the city in the past to offer a small percentage of its program funding to help participants purchase a home instead of renting.
"The homes that were purchased were brought up to City Code with rehab funds and then we assisted each month with the monthly payment toward the mortgage."
There isn't a city-based program now for a similar expressed purpose except for the downtown revitalization loan program.
But that's limited in scope to spurring private development and redevelopment investment into downtown Mason City.
There's a project for "Neighborhood Reinvestment and Stabilization" in the city's Capital Improvements Program though Van Steenhuyse said that, more recently, it's been used for funding acquisition and demolition of problem properties. At present, there are about 38 such houses and commercial buildings.
That particular program runs at a cost of $1 million over five years. Funds that would be used to purchase dilapidated dwellings and rehab them for sale to low-to-moderate-income families would be intended for those at or below 120% of the area median.