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With help from some confident backers and a new owner, though, the historic house is now staging a grand comeback. When she first set foot in the house at the start of much-needed renovations, a refrigerator and toilet occupied the middle of the dining room, another major appliance sat abandoned on the front porch, and the whole place was a dirty, chaotic mess.
None of that mattered.
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Admiring the high ceilings, charming dormer windows, and wood floors that reminded her of her childhood home in Iowa, Kerns saw past the grime and the clutter. The program buys and renovates run-down former or potential rental properties in neighborhoods around campus, then sells them to income-qualified homebuyers who agree to live there for at least five years.
In doing so, it hopes to restore the balance of residents and improve the quality of life in neighborhoods that have gradually been taken over by rental properties. Buyers can also benefit from free renovations and down payment assistance. The immaculate restoration of the old home, a rental property for 15 years, won the contractors a Historic Preservation Award.
The initiative also hopes to reverse a demographic exodus that began in the s and s, when suburbs started luring families away from city centers across the nation. Plus, as the university grew, so did a market for off-campus student housing.
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While renters undoubtedly infuse old neighborhoods with vitality and diversity, problems can arise. A frequent turnover of residents who lack any real connection to the area, as well as landlords reluctant to spend money on property maintenance, can lead to dilapidated houses, overgrown lawns, and trash-strewn streets. Homeowners in such areas tell horror stories of loud, late-night parties, drunken revelry, and an increase in petty crime or antisocial behavior. Since its launch in , the program has sold six restored properties, with seven more available soon. Another 12 houses are slated for purchase and renovation.
During an open house this past April, a charming, two-bedroom cottage with a steeply pitched roof on Fairchild Street attracted interested visitors.
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Obviously smitten, young couples and single parents wandered around the square-foot home, murmuring about historic details like the transom windows above doors, as well as the modern, efficient kitchen and the practicality of being within walking distance of work, shops, parks, and downtown attractions. A few weeks after that open house, the cottage became home for a qualified buyer.
Just a few years ago, a big old foursquare on Muscatine Avenue was locally renowned as a venue for raucous parties. After its UniverCity transformation, the four-bedroom property stood out for other reasons: a handsome new exterior paint job in coordinating tones of terracotta, tan, and beige, plus interior improvements that included a new kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room, electrical service, furnace, air conditioning, and water heater.
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Last month, a UI faculty member purchased the property and completed its transition from party house to family home. The university, the city, and local businesses realize the benefits of investing in such makeovers.
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A number of other universities across the country, including Harvard, Yale, Ohio State, Minnesota, and Northeastern, successfully operate similar programs to revitalize and improve areas right on their doorsteps. Although the I-Jobs funding runs out at the end of this year, city officials hope the UniverCity Neighborhood Partnership can become a non-profit, stand-alone project, advocating for homeowners and renters and providing assistance to neighborhoods.
As one of the first buyers in the program, Kerns offers proof that it can work. Permanent residents occupy most of the nearby houses, keeping their homes and yards in tip-top condition. When Kerns sits on her front porch drinking coffee, she receives cheery waves and greetings from neighbors and other passers-by. At night, when Kerns lies in her bed and gazes out the windows, she can glimpse branches of centuries-old oak trees on the opposite side of the street and listen to the soft hoots of the nesting owls. You'll be able to manage videos in your Watchlist, keep track of your favorite shows, watch PBS in high definition, and much more!
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From subscription- based farming to networked "local" hydroponics growers, to mini-farms in business parks that supply on-site cafes - we see them all in this Emmy-winning episode. Report a Problem. Before you submit an error, please consult our Troubleshooting Guide. Your report has been successfully submitted. Thank you for helping us improve PBS Video. Growing Dreams and Memories. We look at gardens that heal bodies and souls or inspire new beginnings. We visit some innovative projects that teach children and adults to grow food.
We look at types of farming, from subscription-based farming to mini-farms. We take an up-close look at the "Elfin Forests" and surrounding environmental pressures. Visit the next generation of wine makers and see how they are reinventing the process. Featured Show. View Show. Watch Now. Sign In. Use one of the services below to sign in to PBS: You've just tried to add this video to your Watchlist so you can watch it later. Creating an account is free and gets you: Access to High-Definition streaming A personal area on the site where you can access: Favorite Shows Watchlist Viewing History Early access to exciting new features.