Steve Van Oort Has the Floor

A New Board Member shares his committment to affordable housing

Steve Van Oort Has the Floor

There’s nothing quite like the enthusiasm, curiosity and questions you get from elementary-aged kids. For years I had a tradition of visiting all the 2nd grade classes in Ankeny during the fall and having a discussion regarding citizenship and the services provided in our community.  

My favorite part was when the children asked their questions.  Many were entertaining, some were quite earnest and the entire experience left me more committed than ever to providing each of those children, their families and neighbors a quality of life that is the hallmark of a great community.

While my role has changed from being the mayor of Ankeny to now serving all of Polk County as a Polk County Supervisor, my focus remains the same – to provide every citizen a quality of life.

Quality of life starts with having the basics – which includes safe, stable and affordable housing. Prior to serving on the Neighborhood Finance Corporation and serving as a board member for the Polk County Housing Trust Fund I was in what I can only describe as a cocoon.  A cocoon where the need for affordable housing was not as evident as it is in some neighborhoods or larger cities.  That’s when I became the student asking questions, engaging and going on Bus Tours organized by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund.  

Seeing and hearing firsthand the balance of where projects and housing initiatives are making a difference, as well as the gap between what is needed and what is available has been eye-opening.

And more formal, quantitative information is on the way. In the spring of 2014 we will be receiving the results of a housing study commissioned by PCHTF. As a board we received a presentation of the results-to-date and a few things have already caught my attention –

·      29% of renters making 30% or less of Area Median Income  rent do not own a car,

·      Those same households pay $626 a month for rent, an amount equal to 67% of their income, and

·      60% of those same renters are single without children.

It will be interesting to see the entire study conducted by Iowa State University and their recommendations next year. It is my hope the results will serve to facilitate and focus discussions, strategic planning and future investments.

Even before then I hope you will take the time to click around the PCHTF website, go on one of the quarterly Affordable Housing Bus Tours and ask questions of me and other Polk County leaders committed to improving the quality of life in our shared communities.