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Housing Articles and Resources


This page provides some links to articles and resources relating to the topic of housing including affordable housing and local city governance as it relates to planning and funding for development projects.

The heading topics are listed in alphabetical order with links to suggested readings and other materials. Within a topic heading, items are listed with quotes and excerpts in order of date with the most recent at top.

Explore this topic further using a Google search for the keyword housing on the Nicholas Johnson website or blog: [Website Search] or [Blog Search]  Note that a search on the word housing will show any page the word appears in, so some of the search results will be less relevant than others.

Affordable Housing

“There remain differences among us as to whether our obligations to others should be fulfilled through governmental programs or non-governmental organizations’ efforts. But as we see, virtually all the world’s great religions, and nations (UN), are agreed that we do have at least some obligations to fellow members of our species. … a nation willing to trust its democracy to a political process fueled (and therefore largely controlled) by the largest campaign donors, it can’t be shocking that many elected officials share some donors’ belief that ‘my right to a tax cut trumps (so to speak) your right to come in out of the cold.’ Thankfully, there are also thousands of knowledgeable, caring individuals in Iowa and throughout our nation who are trying to do something about insuring every American has decent housing. This blog post is dedicated to them, and addresses the challenges they face.” — Is there a right to housing?, The Gazette, Insight Guest Opinion, August 1, 2017, p. A5 [Read Full Article]

Demolition for New Construction – Historic Preservation

“When it comes to building new structures, and preserving the old, Iowa City needs a process that produces consensus. Iowa City’s downtown was laid out in 1839. Like Iowa’s 99 counties, it was literally designed for a horse and buggy age. One hundred years later, even with automobiles, the downtown neither had nor needed parking garages or parking meters. … For years I’ve advocated a vision for our downtown of a small, quaint, walkable, livable, residential center of history, entertainment and restaurants — along with the minimal number of banks, grocery stores and other businesses to sustain that resident population. That’s something downtown could become.” — Building Consensus on Iowa City’s Vision, Future, Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City Press-Citizen, June 30, 2015, p. A9 [Read Full Article]


“Our international housing value and goal is expressed in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including . . . housing. . ..’ Presumably, we can agree to a standard at least as high as what the Iowa Legislature provides for animals. Iowa Code Section 717B.3 provides the penalties for ‘animal neglect.’ ‘A person commits animal neglect when the person . . . fails to provide the animal with . . . ventilated shelter reasonably sufficient to provide adequate protection from the elements and weather conditions . . .. The shelter must protect the animal from wind, rain, snow, or sun and have adequate bedding to provide reasonable protection against cold and dampness.’ Can we at least start there for humans as well?” — Solving Our Housing Disgrace, Nicholas Johnson, September 25, 2021 [Read Full Article]

Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

“Initially designed for urban renewal and low-income housing, taxpayer-funded TIFs are now used to build upscale condos. … TIFs intertwine government and business in something that’s neither socialism or capitalism. It’s called ‘corporatism,’ and combines the worst qualities of both. … It’s ideological hypocrisy to praise free markets while coming to city hall tin cup in hand. … It’s inexcusably unfair to fund one business person while leaving his competitors on their own.” Like Death and Taxes, TIFs and TIFing Seem Here to Stay, Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City Press-Citizen, February 3, 2013, p. A7 [Read Full Article]

Urban Planning

“Urban planning, the arrangement of suburban homes, or common space in apartment units, the availability of sidewalks and bike paths, can tend to increase, or decrease, chance meetings and conversation. Location of housing and schools can produce either the integration, or the segregation, of socio-economic classes, races and religions.” — Design Communities to Support Communication, Interaction and Learning, Nicholas Johnson, The Gazette, February 7, 2016, p. C4 [Read Full Article]

Additional Housing Resources

Below are some additional housing related resources external to this website. Some of these are specific to the Iowa City area. 

Cohousing in Iowa City

This video provides a good introduction to the topic of cohousing. Produced by City Channel 4, 26 Jan 2022 [Source]


“A decade ago, Utah set itself an ambitious goal: end chronic homelessness. As of 2015, the state can just about declare victory: The population of chronically homeless people has dropped by 91 percent.” — NPR, 10 Dec 2015 [More]

Iowa City Housing Assistance

  • Housing Authority — “The Housing Authority works to improve the quality of life for clients, acting as a community leader on affordable housing by providing information and education, housing assistance, and public and private partnership opportunities. The Housing Authority is a division of the City of Iowa City established in 1969 to administer housing assistance programs. We currently assist more than 1,500 low-income families to acquire and maintain affordable housing through rental and ownership programs.” [More]
  • Johnson County Homeless Coordinating Board — “We use our community partnerships to improve and strengthen services and eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort. Our education efforts keep the topic of homelessness on the table, creating a community ready to mobilize toward positive change.” [More]
  • Shelter House — “Since 1983, Shelter House has provided safe shelter and helped people improve the quality of their lives as they move beyond homelessness. We began in an old home in Iowa City with a capacity of 29 sleeping spaces including beds, couches, and mats on the floor. Today, Shelter House operates a 70-bed emergency shelter in addition to four homes and an apartment building through which we provide over 60 permanent supportive housing units. We focus on programs and support services including housing, employment, and mental health recovery that help hundreds of adults, children, and families each year to get back on their feet.” [View]

Iowa City Housing Resources

  • Iowa City Cohousing — “Iowa City Cohousing was started by a group of local folks working to create a new housing alternative in Iowa City. We are building a new neighborhood based on the “cohousing” model which started in Denmark and has now spread worldwide. There are hundreds of cohousing communities in the U.S, Canada, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and elsewhere. We’ve christened ours Prairie Hill. It’s the first cohousing community in Iowa.” [More]
  • Iowa City Housing Options — A resource provided by Kirkwood Community College, primarily focused on student housing. [View]
  • Off-Campus Housing — A resource provided by the University of Iowa. This is an online interactive searchable guide to local housing with an emphasis on student housing, but also relevant to others. [View]