Saturday, December 31, 2016

It Was a very good Year

When looking back at 2016, we at Prairie Hill have much to be grateful for. As member Carolyn Dyer has recently posted on our Facebook page, there have been many, many people and institutions demonstrating their support for this, the first cohousing community in Iowa. Here is a list of just a few happenings during the past year:

  • The City of Iowa City approved the plans for Prairie Hill.
  • Our land was cleared for development.

  • The Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District designated funds to be used for sustainable stormwater management in our project, including a bio-retention cell and soil improvement.
  • In various ways, we have played around with future floor plans.

  • The Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County and an anonymous donor have granted funds for down-payment assistance for three income-qualified households.
  • We've spread the word about our future community and met wonderful people along the way.

  • We are planning 15 homes that qualify us for a large Iowa Workforce Housing Tax Credit and a companion grant from the City of Iowa City.
  • The Great Western Bank has approved our construction loan for this new-to-them and new-to-Iowa project.
  • We have visited and studied prairies in preparation for planting our own.

  • Uptown Bill's and the Housing Fellowship have provided meeting space for our regular information meetings.
  • In working together and planning for our future home, we are building community.

  • We've learned about sociocracy as we prepare our structures for decision-making and general cooperation.

  • A crowd gathered in November for our groundbreaking ceremony.
  • In preparation for imminent infrastructure work, Apex Construction has installed a porta potty and a mailbox!
  • And our membership continues to grow as the idea of living in a cohousing community draws many wonderful people to us.
For all this and more, we are thankful!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Advantages of Home Ownership

Iowa City Cohousing has been committed to affordable home ownership since the beginning. We already have a grant for down payment assistance for low income households. We are arranging a way for people to make tax-deductible contributions to our affordable housing funds! We will let you know the specifics soon!

A research summary on the Habitat for Humanity website* (link below) shows that:

  • Homeownership leads to better health
  • Homeownership leads to greater educational achievements.
  • Homeownership provides better security and safety.
  • Homeownership helps generate wealth building and a pathway out of poverty.

Clearly homeownership makes a difference for children, families and communities.

We will keep you posted on how you can be involved!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Action on the Land!

This outhouse and mailbox are precursors of the near future, when strong machines will be seen breaking through the frozen crust and begin putting in the infrastructure for Prairie Hill. Progress! We'll take it!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Iowa City Cohousing Display at Saturday's Holiday Market - Come and Talk to Us!

Every pre-holiday season, Iowa City sponsors two Holiday Markets, the second and last one happening this coming Saturday, December 10th, from 8-1:00 at the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center, 220 South Gilbert St. in Iowa City. One reason you might want to make the trip to the market this Saturday is because Iowa City Cohousing will have a display of site plans and building plans, accompanied by various cohousing members. It's a good time to find out more about the community if you'd like to hear about recent progress and future timelines. Our tables will be on the ground floor, at the east end of a row, two rows from the north end of the room. They will be under the banner of Wapsinonoc Gardens.

Another reason you might want to come by is that we'll have a new book available that several IC Cohousing members have been working on for the past 2 1/2 years: Taste a Little of the Summer: Eating Locally, Living Sustainably.  Here's a picture of it:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New York Times op-ed article by Iowa City's own Jeff Biggers

(Note: sorry about the margins going long in this "cut and paste". Can't seem to fix it, so you'll have to bear with it. Still, it's legible, just not ideal.)


A wind turbine in Adair, Iowa. CreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

IOWA CITY — THE wind turbines that rise out of the cornfields here reminded me on a recent drive of one postelection truth, even in the red state of Iowa.
As President-elect Donald J. Trump considers whether to break the United States commitment to the Paris climate accord, the rise of clean energy across the heartland is already too well entrenched to be reversed.
By 2020, thanks to MidAmerican Energy’s planned $3.6 billion addition to its enormous wind turbine operations, 85 percent of its Iowa customers will be electrified by clean energy. Meanwhile, Moxie Solar, named the fastest-growing local business by The Corridor Business Journal of Iowa, is installing solar panels on my house, and is part of a solar industry that now employs 200,000 nationwide.
Doomsday scenarios about the climate have abounded in the aftermath of the November election. But responsibility for effectively reining in carbon emissions also rests with business, and with the nation’s cities and states. Those are the battlegrounds. Worldwide, cities produce as much as 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of the planet’s cities lie along the coasts and are threatened by slowly rising seas. Seventy percent of those cities are already dealing with extreme weather like drought and flooding. Add in aging infrastructure and waves of migrants and it is obvious that city planners, mayors and governors have had to re-envision how their cities generate energy and provide food and transportation.
“The concept of a regenerative city could indeed become a new vision for cities,” the Germany-based World Future Council reported recently. “It stands for cities that not only minimize negative impact but can actually have a positive, beneficial role to play within the natural ecosystem from which they depend. Cities have to constantly regenerate the resources they absorb.”
This idea won broad support at a recent gathering of city leaders from around the world in Quito, Ecuador, hosted by the United Nations. The Habitat III conference approved a “new urban agenda” that urges cities to adapt to climate change but minimize their harm to the environment and move to sustainable economies.
In a changing climate, these approaches make sense. As Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, told the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce recently, “Cities, businesses and citizens will continue reducing emissions, because they have concluded — just as China has — that doing so is in their own self-interest.”
With or without significant federal support, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require major private investment, as it has here in Iowa, and ambitious private-public initiatives from mayors and governors. We need to activate a new era of “regenerative” cities and states.
California’s recent move to reduce its carbon emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 is a hopeful shift that other cities and states should emulate. This would involve setting high benchmarks for developing green enterprise zones, renewable energy, cultivating food locally, restoring biodiversity, planting more trees and emphasizing walkability, low-carbon transportation and zero waste.
Following this regenerative approach, the Australian city of Adelaide reduced its carbon emissions by 20 percent from 2007 to 2013, even as the population grew by 27 percent and the economy increased by 28 percent. The city experienced a boom in green jobs, the development of walkable neighborhoods powered by solar energy, the conversion of urban waste to compost and a revamped local food industry. The city also planted three million trees to absorb carbon dioxide.
Over 10,000 climate initiatives are underway in cities worldwide, according to the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which represents 80 major cities. In nearby Des Moines, for instance, Mayor Frank Cownie recently committed the city to reducing its energy consumption 50 percent by 2030 and becoming “carbon neutral” by 2050.
Initiatives like those have become a “fill the potholes” reality for many mayors, regardless of political games in Washington. In San Diego, the Republican mayor, Kevin Faulconer, helped to push through a climate action plan that commits the city to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035. Other cities are following his lead.
“Dull, inert cities, it is true, do contain the seeds of their own destruction and little else,” the urban visionary Jane Jacobs wrote. “But lively, diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.”
In an age of climate change, and a possible shift in the federal government’s priority on climate action, never have those words been truer.

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