So, now that the Board of Adjustment has split on the status of the Kinnick House- which allows construction to go forward, the Manville Heights Neighborhood Association is suing to block the construction which throws the whole thing up in the air once more. The lawsuit doesn't bother me all that much- if rich people want to go to court over this, let 'em. I don't think any of the arguments advanced by the neighborhood association hold that much water anyway- especially the ones about public safety. But what does bother me is the contrast between how this has been handled versus the way the city dealt with the whole Rose Oaks fiasco.
I don't know enough about the City's Housing Authority and what it can and can't do to say for sure, but it seems to be that Rose Oaks should never have been allowed to get into the state it got into. There were (reportedly) problems with cockroaches. The whole place just went downhill- and may be it had been for years, I don't know. And it's not a secret in Iowa City that landlords (or slumlords, depending on how cynical and jaded you might be) can get away with an awful lot of shady shit- that can lead to lawsuits and some relief for tenants.
But I've been of two minds about it ever since redevelopment began. On the one hand, yeah, it was bad and yeah, it was bad enough that gutting the whole place was probably a viable and maybe even necessary step to rescue the complex. But when I see things like this, then I have a problem- because it's clear the idea is to price out the old residents of Rose Oaks (lower class and disproportionately minorities) and upscale the place as fast as they can.
The contrast reeks of class privilege and I'm going to go from annoyed to extremely angry if the Manville Heights temper tantrum actually gets somewhere in court. Rich people have the money to NIMBY anything they want. People who live at places like Rose Oaks never have that problem- they just get shuffled along to the next place down the line and for a town that prides itself on being progressive, tolerant and inclusive it's a jarring contrast.
It'd be easy to say that it's just the cost of doing business and the forward march of progress, but if you dig into the data a little bit more, it gets even harder to ignore. Zillow pegs the average house price in Iowa as a whole around $125K, but Realtor.com has Iowa City alone with a median listing price at $230K, which is over $100K more than the state average. (I'm taking this data at face value, which might be a mistake- but we'll go with it.) There's a significant disparity here that affects the working class more than it should and it's a blind spot the city needs to do a better job of acknowledging and, more to the point, dealing with. Every one wants to live here- which makes sense. There's a University and a Hospital here. Jobs at both can be lucrative if you can get them. The schools are good. It is a great place to live and to be fair, there are folks dedicated to closing this gap.
But I drive past Rose Oaks every day. It's in my neighborhood and every day when I do, I think that if we're really dedicated to closing the housing gap in Iowa City then they better end up building that damn house- because they idea of the rich neighborhood getting to NIMBY anything they want, while the not-so-rich neighborhood is helpless in the face of the bulldozers doesn't sit right with me. I live here and I hate the contrast. So should everyone else.