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Sioux City department to educate community on housing rights

An apartment building
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A fair housing workshop in Sioux City will guide people through their rights as tenants.

The Sioux City Human Rights Commission will host a workshop to educate community members on their rights as tenants on Monday evening.

The fair housing workshop aims to help tenants understand their rights and to protect themselves against discriminatory practices. Director Karen Mackey said she hopes Iowa tenants will leave with a better understanding of how to advocate for themselves.

Mackey said a shortage of affordable housing in the area is leading many tenants to accept worse treatment. She said, with the competitive housing market, it’s important that renters have a clear understanding of their legal protections.

“If you're going to go into a situation where you're renting from someone who you know is not a great landlord, to know what your rights are and be very firm from the get go,” Mackey said. “And to know what they don’t have to put up with – that’s important.”

“They're willing to accept anything because of the competitiveness, because there's such a shortage and such a crunch.”
Jessica Ryan, investigator with the Sioux City Human Rights Commission

Sioux City Human Rights Commission investigator Jessica Ryan said since the eviction moratorium ended in Iowa in August of last year, their office has seen an influx of people with eviction papers in hand asking for help. Ryan said her office helps investigate the circumstances of eviction to see if there’s discrimination at play.

Iowa Legal Aid predicts that 2022 will bring a record number of evictions, according to a report by Axios Des Moines. The state of Iowa is on track to see more than 20,000 eviction filings this year. That’s partly due to a loss of COVID-19 emergency rental assistance that helped keep people in their homes.

Once evicted, it makes it harder to find housing elsewhere. Ryan said it leaves them more vulnerable to discriminatory practices.

“The thing that we found the most was people just scrambling to find something that they could rent,” Ryan said. “They're willing to accept anything because of the competitiveness, because there's such a shortage and such a crunch.”

Iowa needs to add 61,000 housing units by 2030 to meet its needs, according to the Iowa Finance Authority.
Iowa Finance Authority
Iowa needs to add 61,000 housing units by 2030 to meet its needs, according to the Iowa Finance Authority.

The Iowa Finance Authority reports that more than 40 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Mackey said that she finds many families are just one financial setback away from losing their housing.

“It doesn’t take far to get there if you’re a tenant,” she said.

The workshop will work to bring awareness to local resources to prevent eviction and assist low-income families. Mackey said her department will also be available to answer questions about people’s personal experiences with discriminatory housing policies.

The event will be at the Urban Native Center at 1501 Geneva St. from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.