Affordable Housing - What's Ahead?

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Affordable Housing - What's Ahead?

A recent article in the Des Moines Register points out a disturbing trend.  The latest census figures show that there has been a marked increase in people “doubling up” for housing.  More intergenerational families and unrelated individuals are living together.  Doubling up is a reliable leading indicator of an affordable housing market under stress.

This last year brought many “#1 Awards” for the Greater Des Moines area.  One of them was for affordable housing, both owner occupied and rental.  This is something the community rightfully takes pride in.  However, trend data already shows a disturbing movement toward a problem.

Last year the average rent on a 2 bedroom apartment in the Greater Des Moines area jumped 4.7%.  Vacancy rates for 2 bedrooms are at historic lows.  These are “family apartments.”  Short supply means increased demand which in turn drives rents higher.  Building permits for multi-family rental units don’t give much hope for a reversal of this trend.  In fact, with young families increasingly shut out of homeownership options it looks to get more competitive before it gets better.

The PCHTF must be out ahead of this data curve.  We must demand that our affordable housing dollars produce or conserve more units and at a faster pace.  Our Board and committees need to set strategies for spending that are consistent with the anticipated need.  Providers who seek funding must recognize that new innovations in affordable housing are necessary.  Creativity needs to be encouraged.  Success needs to be rewarded.

In future articles we will be looking at some of the newest thoughts on best practices for increasing the inventory of affordable housing units.  We will look at accessing the private landlord market, at the role of public transportation in helping make housing affordable and at “green” systems that ultimately save a family money on housing costs.

The Polk County Housing Trust Fund is committed to making this area a model for best practices in affordable housing development.  Follow the discussion here at