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How Livable is Iowa City?

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- On Wednesday, Iowa City was ranked as one of the top 100 most livable cities by the website livability.com.

But according to some new local numbers, there is still work to be done.

Demand at the food bank at The Crisis Center of Johnson County has increased by 16 percent since July -- that's on top of similar increases in the last few years, said food bank and emergency assistance director Sarah Benson Witry.

There are a lot of factors bringing more people to the food bank, but one of the heaviest hitters is a lack of affordable housing, Benson Witry said. That hits home for some of the parents living in Pheasant Ridge.

"I have two boys -- a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old -- and in Chicago, the crime rate has gone up tremendously, you know what I'm saying? And I have boys, so they're going to be victims to it," said single mom Ashley Charles.

That's why Charles moved to Pheasant Ridge with her boys one year ago. Despite having a full-time job, Charles said she wouldn't be able to live in Iowa City without low-income housing assistance.

A single parent of two needs to make more than $23 per hour to cover only the basics in Johnson County, according the nonprofit research group Iowa Policy Project.

"The affordable housing thing, it's a very good program, and I love it, I love it," Charles said.

But there are many people in the Iowa City area who aren't as lucky as Charles, and can't get into low-income housing.

"Right now, we have a very low rental unit vacancy rate, which means that rental units are able to be more expensive, because they'll get filled," Benson Witry said.

With fewer full-time jobs available now compared with five years ago, families spend more money on rent, have less money for food, and spend more time at the food bank, Benson Witry said.

In the last two years, visits per family have increased from seven to 10 visits per year, Benson Witry said.

"And that just demonstrates that the families that we're seeing are having a harder and harder time getting out of their poverty situations," she said.

There are silver linings, though. Charles' friend, Precious, just found a new job, and the women are just happy to be raising their children in such a livable town with access to good schools and community programs.

"My kids can come outside and play. I ain't got to worry about nothing happening to them or none of that, you know what I'm saying? I love it, though," Charles said.

 
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