New Findings Released from ISU Housing Inventory

Second installment now online

New Findings Released from ISU Housing Inventory

As highlighted in our most recent bus tour, the second installment of the ISU Housing Inventory commissioned by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund was released on July 15.  Dr. Jane Rongerude of Iowa State University’s Department of Community and Regional Planning leads the study’s research team consisting of professors Carlton Basmajian, Biswa Das, and Jiangping Zhou, as well as student research assistants Eric Christianson and Josh Hellyer.  The team has worked on the project since June 2012, and will continue the study until a final report is delivered in early 2014.

The purpose of the Housing Inventory is to assess the affordable housing market in Polk County and to determine what gaps exist between supply and demand, and to devise a method for more accurately counting the county’s supply of rental units.  To accomplish this goal, the team will be using a number of public and private data sources from local and national sources.  The study also aims to provide the PCHTF with an economical means of updating the inventory on a regular basis to keep up with current housing trends.

So far, the study has focused on using quantitative methods of data analysis to assess the geographic distribution of affordable housing in Polk County.  The study uses several definitions of affordability that are described in this phase of the report.  First, the study describes the traditional definition, in which an affordable unit is one that costs a household 30% or less of its income in rent each month.  Next, another definition is proposed that takes other household expenses like childcare, food, and taxes into account.  An amount equal to an average household’s expenses in these areas is subtracted from household income to yield a “residual income” which represents the amount of money a household has left to pay rent.   Using this definition, few of Polk County’s units are affordable to the average renter, as the average household can only pay $254 each month.  While the assumed cost of living may be an overestimate, this analysis suggests that the county’s rental housing may be less affordable than previously thought.  Using several definitions of affordability will provide the PCHTF with a more complete picture of the affordable housing market in the county and highlight potential challenges to address in the years to come.

To complement the data analysis portion of the study, the team will also be conducting a survey of Polk County households to ask them about their housing needs.  Preliminary results show that 26% of respondents feel that they are paying too much for housing, and 15% feel that their current housing is inadequate for their needs.  Moving forward, the team will conduct one-on-one interviews with individuals selected from the survey respondents who have exceptional challenges in finding affordable housing.  Collecting this information will allow the team to assess which findings from the data analysis are most relevant and to explain the factors that are causing affordability issues for Polk County households.

The next phase of the study will be released in December.  In addition to further data analysis and final survey and interview results, the next installment will contain two complementary studies: a historical report detailing regional governance in Polk County and its effects on affordable housing as well as a report describing which factors have the biggest impact on rental housing affordability.

The complete Phase II Housing Inventory is available, along with other commissioned research, on the PCHTF’s Community Housing Policy microsite.  It is also available by clicking HERE.