The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Long-in-coming help for flood-hit landlords is on the way

In City Hall, Floods on March 18, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Help is nearly here for landlords of flood-damaged properties.

The City Council this evening is expected to hire a local firm, Transitions Made Better Inc., to administer housing rehabilitation funds for landlords with flood-damaged properties.

Paula Hinzman Mitchell, supervisor in the city’s Housing Services office, said the city expects the state Department of Economic Development to begin to release Community Development Block Grant funds to help flood-affected landlords soon once the city has its program to administer the funds in place.

To date, more than 500 landlords with a total of 874 rental units have applied for help from the program with the cumbersome name, Rental Rehabilitation – Small Projects Disaster Recovery Assistance Program.

Hinzman Mitchell said it would cost about $22 million if each of the units received the maximum rehabilitation award of $24,999. An additional $12,500 per unit is also available to cover added project costs, which include lead-based paint remediation in instances where it is necessary.

Landlords have been agitating for housing rehabilitation help for many months as both state Jumpstart funds and federal CDBG funds have come into the city for homeowners and small businesses.

The landlords have argued that they were a major provider of affordable housing in the city’s flood-damaged neighborhoods and that getting their properties renovated was the quickest, cheapest way for the city to reestablish affordable housing lost in the June 2008 flood.

“Certainly one of the goals of the CDBG program is to provide decent affordable housing, and so this activity will be consistent with that overall major goal,” Hinzman Mitchell said.

The landlord program is open to those with seven or fewer rental units, and the assistance will come in the form of five-year forgivable loans.

Hinzman Mitchell noted that city had invited several entities to submit proposals to administer the landlord assistance program, but only Theresa Bornbach, president of Transitions Made Better Inc. in Cedar Rapids, submitted a proposal. Bornbach has experience administering state Jumpstart funds for local businesses, Hinzman Mitchell said.

The firm will receive an administrative fee of up to 2 percent to administer the program.

Keith Smith, president of Landlords of Linn County, told the City Council last night Bornbach has earned his respect in the way she has advocated for small businesses during the flood recovery. He said landlords were confident Bornbach would “meet our needs.”

Bornbach is founder/CEO of Corridor CoWorks Inc. and The Corridor Institute, and she is a former Alliant Energy vice president.

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