Dubuque, an industrial city in northeastern Iowa, has launched a housing campaign, promoting home ownership and development. The city (home to around 57,000 people) plans to pump a total of $19 million through 2021 to improve 739 housing units; so far, they have spent $2.3 million to improve 89 units.

Last week, the Iowa Finance Authority started its first of three statewide conversations on affordable housing and the success of this campaign.

Some $4 million will be dedicated to the purchase, rehabilitation and resale of abandoned and dilapidated homes and rental structures, providing 100 affordable housing units in Dubuque’s vibrant center. The city wants to diversify housing — mixing socioeconomic classes together — as well as rehabilitate blighted properties and increase affordable housing while promoting private reinvestment all at the same time.

Currently, there are about 3,400 households in Dubuque that earn less than 30 percent of the median income in the area. In other words, 3,400 households make less than $19,900 per year, keeping in mind that Dubuque’s poverty line is $24,600 per year for a family of four.


Downtown, Dubuque. CC: John Kunze

Rachel Regan, 25, a working single mother of two who makes less than $24,115 per year, couldn’t afford a home until the city stepped in. Thanks to the city home-ownership workshop, she learned about the property and the city’s efforts. After living in a rental, she obtained a mortgage from Dubuque Bank & Trust that enabled her to buy a house for $148,000 last June.

Moreover, given her financial situation, she also qualifies for a $40,000 forgivable loan and a $25,000 no-interest loan from the city to put toward purchase costs, financed through federal and state funds the city has received.

“My kids are in a safe, quiet neighborhood and love being able to play outside and have a yard and a deck,” says Regan. “If it weren’t for them redoing this whole house and informing me of this, I would have had a starter home that needed a lot of work. And now, I’m worry-free for years to come.”