Northwest Iowa Regional Housing Board addresses COVID-19

Friday, March 20, 2020

During their meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Northwest Iowa Regional Housing Authority Board gave an update in response to the presence of COVID-19 in the state, starting with the closure of its office at 2016 Highway Boulevard in Spencer to the public with business by appointment only.

“We put a sign on the door as to how to contact us and then also we installed a new dropbox that is attached to our fence outside,” Executive Director Lois Koelder said. “We canceled all the inspections which we can do because they’re biannual and we’ve always been practicing annual inspections. We canceled all the inspections except emergency inspections and new unit inspections. On the new unit inspections, we are trying to do camera phones on both ends and have someone on the tenant end do the inspection for us while we watch. We have a form for them to sign stating that they are able to do the inspections and that will also give us some information on the property and then we will record the inspections as we go.

She continued, “Annual certification paperwork was all set up and we will conduct phone interviews. We are kind of asking that the information be faxed back to us or scanned or photo if they possibly can. … If at all possible we’re asking to having things scanned instead. We are also looking into doing leases with electronic signatures and other paperwork done with electronic signatures. We’re getting that set up so we can keep the employees from being exposed to anything.”

Board member Jim Ransom expressed concern for staff handling paperwork submitted while the virus continues to exist within the state, causing another board member to suggest paperwork could be sanitized with a hot iron if necessary, a statement which brought some levity to the group’s discussion.

“If I start ironing paper we’re in a lot of trouble,” Buena Vista County Chair Sandra Johnson said. “It’s like, you remember back to preschool days? We went through these things of washing things down, bleaching things down. We’re going back to that, you know? Keeping it clean, being careful what you’re doing. … If you’ve got a cold or even the sniffles, don’t go near anybody. Because making them sick can be a problem. … We’ve got to do what we can to protect our staff.”

No formal action regarding COVID-19 was taken by the board.

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