Friday, January 30, 2015

J & M Motor Lodge Closing Soon in Coralville

I wrote a little over a year ago about a battle between the nearby community of Coralville, IA, and J & M Motor Lodge (AKA Capri Lodge). The city was accusing the motel of operating as an apartment complex:
This became an issue after police officers responding to various calls at J & M Motor Lodge noticed several of the same motel residents living there for months and years at a time. The city investigated more and found that the motel wasn't collecting a hotel/motel tax at times for a variety of their residents. Lastly, Coralville officials noted that some of the residents were being removed from their room through court eviction processes.

The owners of J & M Motor Lodge are fighting this decision. They addressed the hotel/motel tax issue by referencing the Iowa code, which exempts occupants who rent a room for 31 consecutive days or more from paying the tax. There have been times when the motel has been filled with extended-stay occupants.

Additionally, J & M Motor Lodge residents don't sign leases. They don't pay deposits. There are no background checks. You can't say the same about apartments or other rental properties.
I commented that it would be a terrible thing, in my opinion, if J & M Motor Lodge got closed by the city or banned from permitting extended-stay guests:
I deal occasionally with the owners of J & M, as well as a neighboring motel that also offers extended-stay lodging. It's cheap housing. It gives people a chance to live somewhere while they search for other sources of long-term affordable housing -- which there isn't a lot of in this area!

This Press-Citizen article interviews a woman who's lived at J & M Motor Lodge since the 2008 floods. She asks a pertinent question. Where can she live for $550 per month (utilities included)? There aren't many options. And there are other extended-stay hotels and motels in the area.
I ended up doing an adult education hour at my church about the subject of the lack of affordable housing options in this community as a direct result of this blog post. It seems only fair that I provide an update to this story.

J & M Motor Lodge will be closing on July 1st:
The J&M Motor Lodge, located at 705 Second St. and formerly known as the Capri Lodge, dismissed its court appeal against the city in November. Its owner says he will voluntarily close the 18-room motel, as well as the small apartment building behind it, by July 1.

In return, the city has agreed to drop its action against the motel and allow it to remain open through the end of the fiscal year, giving the property owners time to find a buyer and longtime occupants time to move out.
There were no interviews with any of the motel residents in this latest article.

I will credit the Press-Citizen for interviewing Johnson County Social Services Director Lynette Jacoby about this development:
Jacoby said places such as the motor lodge offer fewer barriers to housing for those who might not qualify to rent elsewhere because of credit checks, background checks, long-term leases or the area's low vacancy rates.
"It provides an affordable option, and for some of the consumers we see, it may be the only option for them to avoid homelessness," Jacoby said. "From my standpoint, it's a concern to lose that type of flexible housing."
It's obviously the right of these business owners to quit, but I keep going back to my question from October 2013: Where can someone live in this community for $550 per month (utilities included)?

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