Troy Thompson Has the Floor

Gaining the competitive advantage together

Troy Thompson Has the Floor

Visitors who come to my office at Bankers Trust see an aerial photo of the farm where I was raised near Renwick in Humboldt County, population 242 at last count.  While Des Moines and area suburbs are significantly larger than my hometown, a life lesson I experienced there was evident during last month’s Affordable Housing Bus Tour –

We’re all in this together.

Providing affordable housing is often thought of as an issue affecting the urban core.  The seven bus tours offered over the past two years have all been within the Des Moines City limits.  This tour was different. We saw, heard and read firsthand that affordable housing is important to and needed in all of Polk County, with this tour focusing on the western communities of Clive, Grimes, Johnston, Urbandale, West Des Moines and Windsor Heights.

In five of the six western Polk County communities there were more households making less than $25,000 annually than there were units for rent at $599 or less – which is roughly 30% of monthly income. In fact, an additional 2,260 units in that range are needed for the current residents of West Des Moines, Urbandale, Johnston, Grimes and Clive.

People can, and do, spend more than 30% of their income on housing.  What that often means is spending less in other areas, making do without many things, and having no margin for the unexpected, such as car repairs or replacing a furnace.

Employees who have good, stable living conditions positively impact the performance of businesses, schools and neighborhoods. Without a sufficient supply of affordable housing, employers – and our entire regional economy – can be at a competitive disadvantage because of our subsequent difficulty attracting and retaining workers. 

That’s why the most recent bus tour that took us out of Des Moines and into other communities in Polk County was so important. We reviewed maps showing jobs relative to housing, saw a variety of properties and complexes that are successful in providing attractive, affordable housing, learned what it took to make those housing options possible and discussed where we have shortages and a real gap between what someone can responsibly pay versus what is available to them.  Coming together to review the facts and have a clear picture of the regional needs and opportunities relative to affordable housing is a great start. 

In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

PCHTF Board Member Troy Thompson is a Vice President and Senior Commercial Portfolio Manager at Bankers Trust.