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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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WASHINGTON NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION. Organized in the spring of 2005, the Association represented residents living between 11th and 22nd STREETS and Elm to Central. Those organizing the group saw a need to promote the area's environment, safety, and welfare and work toward better communication between residents in the City. (1)

One of the first accomplishments was the establishment of Orange Park at 18th and Washington. The name came from the original name of Washington Street as it appeared on the 1833 plat of Dubuque. The city council agreed to the Association request for more street lighting and additional police patrols. Funds were provided for ongoing upgrading and rehabilitation of neighborhood buildings and infrastructure. Many residents worked with city staff in drafting a working plan for the Washington Neighborhood Revitalization Vision written in 2008. (2)

One of the results of this document was the creation of the Washington Initiative, a public/private partnership including city departments, private lenders, and neighborhood businesses that replaced the previous Washington Neighborhood Association. The Washington Neighborhood Development Corporation was established with a board of directors. (3)

In 2011 the city council passed an ordinance amending the city's building code prohibiting property owners from boarding up windows and doors with the exception of basement windows. The action came in response to a recommendation of the city's Historic Preservation Commission and Safe Community Task Force. The goal was to encourage investment in restoring and preserving the city's historic homes and businesses and creating safer neighborhoods. (4)

In 2013 DUBUQUE BANK AND TRUST COMPANY, the city, and Community Housing Initiatives (CHI) acquired twenty-three homes. In three years, twelve were rehabilitated. The activity led to increased home values although CHI homes sold for around $92,500 compared to the cost of $107,000 to rehabilitate the property. CHI hoped to develop a 'market equilibrium' that would align the cost of purchasing the homes and rehabilitating them with the completed selling value eliminating the need for public subsidies. (5)

In August 2016 an announcement was made of a new agreement between the city and CHI, one of Iowa's largest nonprofit affordable housing providers. Under the terms of the agreement, CHI would provide a minimum of $1.5 million in a construction line of credit to continue efforts to purchase, rehabilitate and resell abandoned and derelict houses from 11th to 22nd streets and Elm Street to Central. The city would invest $600,000 providing $25,000 per unit for acquisition or rehabilitation costs to restore twenty-four houses in the area over four years. The city would inspect homes to be purchased and rehabilitated, develop the scope of the work, and bid packages for CHI to distribute to contractors. The city would also inspect homes prior to resale. Buyers would be eligible for home buyers' assistance through the city. This would include $10,000 to $25,000 through a no-interest loan to qualified buyers based on family size and income. (6)

On June 19, 2017 the council was presented with an updated inventory of properties affected by the restoration efforts. The report indicated that of the 57 properties boarded up since March 2011, 46 were brought into compliance. Building Services continued to complete enforcement on 11 properties by issuing municipal infractions and obtaining court orders to force uncooperative owners to re-open boarded up openings. Properties boarded up prior to March, 2011 were exempted. These 121 properties, according to the report, included 19 that were renovated and three demolished. The city provided financial incentives to the owners of exempted properties to make improvements. As an example, the city offered up to $10,000 for facade restoration to commercial buildings in the greater downtown area and low- and no-interest loans to rehabilitate homes. (7)

In November, 2017 a report stated that the plan had been to restore up to 40 houses. CHI had purchased 28 to renovate. To date, 17 have been sold. Dubuque was expecting to invest $750,000 in the program over the next few years. (8)

On April 2, 2018 the Dubuque City Council voted 6-1 to invest $1.5 million over seven years in an effort to improve housing in the city's poorest neighborhoods. The agreement with True North Community Development Corporation involved the purchase, rehabilitation, and resale of up to 50 residential properties in low-income neighborhoods including the North End. (9)

The project was part of the city's plan to rehabilitate 120 rundown rental structures to single-family homes through 2023 and the campaign of the GREATER DUBUQUE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION to transform the city's North End and greater downtown areas. (10)

The number of homes completed annually depended upon the revenue created from the city's housing tax increment financing districts. Increased property tax collection resulting from the new residential development would be set aside to support affordable housing programs. Property would be sold to qualified homeowners making eighty percent or less of the area's median income which would be equal to no more than $53,100 for a family of four. The city would agree to provide up to $25,000 in a no-interest loan for buyers for purchase costs. New owners would be required to maintain the property as a single-family residence under a 21-year restrictive covenant. (11) In August, 2018 household income figures had been changed to no greater than $59,150 for a family of four and no greater than $41,450 for a single resident. (12)

Concerns about the effect of the True North project included increasing property values that could result in tax assessments driving low income residents out of the area. Other people feared rising property values leading to higher rental costs and again the displacement of low-income residents. There was also the concern that while the HERITAGE TRAIL, BEE BRANCH, and improvements to Central Avenue benefited the area, there remained a need of necessities like grocery stores. (13)



1. "Neighborhood Associations and Councils are Catalysts for Change and Action," Julien's Journal, March 2010, p. 71

2. "Neighborhood Associations and Councils: Changing the Face of Dubuque," Julien's Journal, March 2011, p. 60

3. Ibid.

4. Barton, Thomas J. "City Trims Inventory of Boarded-Up Properties," Telegraph Herald, Hune 19, 2017, p. 1A

5. Barton, Thomas J. "City Takes Big Steps to Build on Home Rehabilitation Program," Telegraph Herald, August 20, 2016, p. 2A

6. Ibid.

7. Barton, "City Trims...", p. 2A

8. Descorbeth, Shirley. "Houses Getting Rehabbed in Dubuque's Washington Neighborhood," KWWL.com. Online: http://www.kwwl.com/story/36799155/2017/11/8/houses-getting-rehabbed-in-washington-neighborhood-in-dubuque

9. Barton, Thomas J., "Council OKs $1.5 Million North End Plan," Telegraph Herald, April 3, 2018, p. 1

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Goldstein, Bennet, "North End Plan to Displace Low-Income Residents?" Telegraph Herald, August 10, 2018, p. 1A

13. Ibid., p. 2A