Christine Pardee Has the Floor

PCHTF Board Members talk about Affordable Housing

Christine Pardee Has the Floor

Growing up as the daughter of a builder and investment property owner/manager, my father took me to his job sites as part of his crew.  When I was six years old he had made for me a Pardee Contracting - Jr. Crew Membert-shirt and I was equipped with a little tool belt, my own hammer, and a stick with a magnet on the end to remove nails from places they should not be. In addition to playing with dolls and building my own dollhouse with my father, I was also helping build real houses for real families.

That life experience set the foundation for my appreciation of the skills and knowledge needed to construct a quality-built home from a structural standpoint.  It also framed my perception on the significant impact that a home can have both on its occupants and community.  I began to notice the correlation between good property maintenance and good tenant retention.  I saw this play out in the neighborhoods where my father chose to build and manage rental properties and where the impact of safe, stable and affordable housing was undeniable and why I became a neighborhood leader.   

I became involved with my first neighborhood association some 14 years ago as an association member.  It was in the Des Moines neighborhood I lived in at that time, and the association was responding to an escalation in crime as a result of drugs and the significant decline in the condition of owner-occupied homes and investment properties.  It was an eye-opening and inspiring lesson in how people can come together to reclaim their neighborhood.  Fast forward to today, where I am now president of the Waveland Park Neighborhood Association, a Plan and Zoning Commissioner for the City of Des Moines and co-chair of the WHO/AARP age-friendly infrastructure working group.  This involvement has shown me that regardless what neighborhood one resides in, there are truths common to all.  One of those is the impact that safe, affordable housing has on the stability of a neighborhood, the quality of life of its residents, and its impact on attracting business and development.

Here's an example.  Many of the metro's 57 neighborhoods are comprised of long-time homeowners.  In my neighborhood, even a younger homeowner soon realizes the considerable investment of time and cost to maintain large, heavily-landscaped and tree-rich yards.  There are countless folks who want to stay in their neighborhood but face economic challenges or declined physical ability because of age and are faced with the heartbreaking reality that it's likely they'll need to move.   When they leave they take historic knowledge of places and events and create a void of social capital that cannot be built or replaced. 

That’s why age friendly, maintenance-lite developments for low income senior housing is a type of diversified housing stock that we need to plan for.  It’s in short supply and there is an increasing demand.  Imagine the difference in one’s ability to live their best life if they are forced to move from their home of 45 years leaving behind long established friendships and neighborhood ties versus folks who can remain place-based but resettle in new housing that meets their changing needs. PCHTF funds can be applied to preserving, retrofitting and building accessible housing.   It’s one of the reasons I joined the board and am proud to have a voice at the table.

Whether property is owner-occupied or tenant-occupied, the PCHTF is uniquely qualified to provide assistance to address the growing need for low to moderate income housing stock. As a board member, I now know the extraordinary outcomes that can occur as this organization has leveraged public and private monies to the tune of 1:10 and sometimes even higher.  It's one of its greatest strengths as it amplifies the capacity to reach targeted populations in targeted locations throughout the metro where neighborhood involvement plays a critical role in this work.   Recent neighborhood-level success stories that PCHTF dollars have contributed to include the "Rock the Block™" effort in the Drake Neighborhood; a solid, model of success that could be duplicated in other metro neighborhoods.  Over 400 volunteers completed 40 projects in a weekend which would have taken individual homeowners years to accomplish on their own.

The second greatest strength of Trust Fund dollars lies in the flexibility to allocate resources where they are best needed and invested.  Trust Fund dollars can be used to support capacity building, rental repair, offset costs for single family homeownership, for capital improvements, and multi-family rental development – to name just a few.  There is room for creativity and innovation among non-profit and for-profit developers to envision potential new uses of funds. For example, Landlord Associations could explore partnering with the PCHTF to develop an emergency gap fund that provides temporary rent to tenants who are experiencing short term financial hardship.  This could help landlords manage the difficult process of screening and placing new tenants while helping to maintain stability in tenants’ home lives.

Thank you for your interest in providing safe, stable and affordable housing.  You don’t have to wear a tool belt or a Pardee Contracting T-shirt to make a difference!