Kate Hayden's Housing Search

Business Record staff writer Kate Hayden describes her recent search for housing

Kate Hayden's Housing Search

Late last August, an article in the Business Record caught the attention of the PCHTF staff. Innovation and Technology reporter Kate Hayden published a final notebook piece telling the tale of her search for affordable housing in Des Moines. Kate beautifully illustrates the story that rings true for young professionals in the metro -- while there is a seemingly endless suppy of new luxury rental housing downtown, there aren't many affordable or reasonable options. Read here story here: 

Great housing search of 2018 ends (Re-published from Business Record, Aug. 24) 

Praise be! The Great Shelter Search of 2018 has ended, and instead of a studio apartment, I found a (rental) house and a roommate. I’d been on the hunt since May for a studio or one-bedroom that could move me closer to work. It took me a week and a half to deduce that downtown Des Moines was not going to work.

Rental housing in Des Moines seems to be at an all-time high with apartment complexes everywhere downtown, but the reality is that much of that is inaccessible to younger employees without roommates.    

A recent report compiled by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund found that no affordable housing, defined as a two-bedroom apartment, exists in Des Moines for minimum wage earners making an annual pay of $15,080.          

I thought I’d review the three most likely apartments I almost rented, compared with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 fair market rate forecast for the Des Moines-West Des Moines region. HUD’s forecast for Des Moines metro apartments lists $597 for an efficiency and $708 for a one-bedroom.           

If I go to the website of Complex No. 1, an available studio floor plan could run me either $605 or $660 a month. If I look at one-bedroom floor plans without a balcony, they put me between $630 and $750.       

Building No. 2, a historic renovation, ran between $765 and $795 with an assigned-parking fee of $50, which conveniently was not mentioned during my tour. Garage parking fees, which were disclosed to me, are $75.           

Building No. 3, another historic renovation under construction at the time, was very limited in units and was, understandably, going to be more expensive. The studio I intended to lease ran at $650, according to an email from the developer at the time, and there were no parking fees. The other two studios available ran at $750 and $800 a month, and I didn’t bother considering the one-bedroom.       

Maybe this is a problem with HUD’s fair market calculation methodology, which used data from 2011 to 2015 to forecast FY 2018. I’m clearly no expert. But I had a budget that would ideally let me build savings and move out of my family’s home at the same time. When it comes to lifestyle, the units marketed toward young professionals like me felt pretty out-of-touch.

For more on Kate's housing search, visit