Five communities—Decorah, Elkader, Eldora, Fairfield, and Shellsburg—received funding this year from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) to participate in the Rural Housing Readiness Assessment (RHRA) program. After the initial funding cycle, additional funding was made available and Humboldt applied, making it the sixth community in the 2023 cycle.
The communities each received a $10,000 grant and are required to contribute a $5,000 cash match. One-third of the $15,000 funds the cost of ISU Extension and Outreach facilitating the RHRA process, with the remaining two thirds available for implementation after the facilitation process is complete.
Fairfield had an opportunity to react quickly to housing opportunities and has already begun the engagement portion of the RHRA process, working with CED staff to address immediate needs within the community.
The remaining five communities kicked off their RHRA programs with a virtual orientation workshop on February 16, during which Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg welcomed the community representatives and expressed his excitement that their communities have taken the initiative to address the housing challenges facing rural Iowa. CED specialists explained the duties of the local housing committee in the RHRA process, the importance of the RHRA workbook as a tool for better understanding their communities, and the importance of gathering input through a community survey. Liesl Seabert, IEDA’s Rural Community Revitalization program manager, reviewed the requirements of the IEDA and ISU contracts, including the time lines and reports and drawdown documents required. The communities then met individually with their respective CED specialists.
The 2023 communities will be progressing through the RHRA process during spring and summer, beginning with the RHRA workbook assessment and the community survey, both of which will be conducted within the first six weeks.
Over the last three years, 31 communities have gone through the RHRA process. Of those, 20 communities have closed contracts and 11 communities have received RHRA reports from CED and are in the implementation stage until June 2023. Implementation dollars have been used for a variety of purposes, including design plans, consultant fees for code updates, interns for additional housing research, work on dilapidated homes, and neighborhood clean-up to improve curb appeal.