Affordable Housing - What's Ahead?

Second in a Series

Affordable Housing - What's Ahead?

The landscape of affordable housing is in the final stages of a change that has been occurring for the past three years.  It is being driven by a change in Federal Policy that some have labeled “Housing First.”  The foundation of this new model is the belief that providing permanent, stable housing as soon as possible in a client’s housing crisis produces better (and cheaper) outcomes.

In its most basic form it means moving homeless individuals from camps, emergency shelters and cars into permanent affordable housing just as soon as possible.  If support services such as education and addiction treatment are needed those should be provided in the setting of a permanent home.  The best results under this model are very reduced (30 days or less) episodes where any client is without a permanent place to live.

What is known is that the vast majority of folks who experience homelessness earn less than 30% of median income annually.  For a single person in Polk County that is $15,600.00 and $22,350.00 for a family of four.  Prospects for earning higher amounts are often dimmed by physical or mental health problems.

Providing permanent affordable housing for this individuals and families is difficult.  In our community the inventory of permanent housing for this income level is in very short supply.  As federal policy shifts to a housing first model these folks formerly served in emergency shelters or transitional housing will need to be moved quickly to permanent supportive housing.  The single biggest challenge facing the Des Moines community is increasing the number of these units.

In future articles we will explore how the PCHTF can help encourage creative solutions to quickly and efficiently increase unit inventory for this population of clients.