By Gregg Hennigan
IOWA CITY — Brenda Y. Minor let out a little squeal as she left City Hall on Monday.
And who can blame her? A bit of luck may end up helping her, at age 53, become a homeowner for the first time.
“This is really a godsend,” said Minor, who currently rents a home in Iowa City through the Housing Fellowship and works at the driver’s license station.
She was one of forty people selected Monday for an affordable housing program offered by the city and administered by the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County. Another eleven applicants were not so lucky — at least for now.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike O’Donnell drew the names out of a bingo roller in an event at City Hall attended by a couple of dozen applicants. The first 40 got dibs on selecting new homes to be built across the city. They will get to pick homes in the order their names were drawn. The rest go on a waiting list.
The program, funded by nearly $2.3 million in federal funds administered by the state, is intended to help replace housing lost during last summer’s record flood.
Buyers will pay for the homes but will receive down-payment assistance of up to 30 percent of the home price. Homes must be priced at $180,000 or less. There are income guidelines for who is eligible, and the assistance will be in the form of a five-year forgivable loan.
The homes include a mix of detached homes, duplexes, zero lot lines, row houses and condominiums.
Of the 51 people who applied, four were flood victims and were given priority.
One of them was Loni Parrott, who had just moved into a condo in the Idyllwild neighborhood when the Iowa River jumped its banks and sent 38 inches of water into her home. Her previous home had not sold, so she and her son have been living there since the flood.
On Monday afternoon, Parrott, 59, planned to go look at the sites offered in the city program.
“It’s just amazing,” she said after her name was drawn. “I’m just thrilled. It will get me into a new home.”
The applicants who were not flood victims were first-time homebuyers, and the city decided the fairest way to choose from among them was to draw names.
Wallace “Gregg” Taylor, 51, of Coralville, missed out by a few spots. Taylor, a janitor, said he can’t afford a home without the assistance, but he didn’t go into the drawing with high expectations.
“Fifty-one people and 40 homes,” he said. “Someone’s not going to get what they want.”
He’s hopeful he can move up the list. Those selected now have two weeks to get pre-approval for financing from a participating lender. If someone can’t get a loan or otherwise drops out, the city will move on to the next person on the list.
The city plans to buyout 40 flood-damaged properties, and if it can purchase more, additional money may come via the state for new homes, said Community Development Coordinator Steve Long.
Construction of the homes likely will start once the builders get signed purchase agreements from buyers, said Tracy Hightshoe, community development planner for the city.
“I just thought it was absolutely tremendous watching first-time homebuyers get into homes, and we’re able to help flood victims” too, O’Donnell said of the event.