Iowa has a lot of positive economic news, but many Iowans are struggling to find an affordable place to live. This includes many of the essential workers who kept the state’s economy running during the coronavirus pandemic, Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) director Debi Durham told an audience at the annual IFA conference on Sept. 8.
A video of Durham’s presentation is available on YouTube and a PDF of her slides is available for download using the link at the bottom of this article.
Durham said that although three quarters of Iowans support affordable housing, support drops when they consider a project that will be built in or near their neighborhood. Housing advocates often struggle to prevail during critical zoning and city council meetings that determine whether housing can be built.
“The challenge confronting housing advocates is tactical. We have to lead with core messaging themes reminding people of the need for and the benefit of affordable housing. Supporters get it when they hear the facts,” Durham said.
The Iowa Finance Authority has conducted new research into Iowans’ opinions about housing. Among the key findings:
Support for housing increases when Iowans hear messages about the benefits housing can provide their community. This is true across various political affiliations, among urban and rural iowans, and when Iowans are considering a housing project that will be built near them.
Messages that explain how affordable housing programs work did not boost Iowans’ support as much as messages about how access to affordable homes benefits people and communities. Durham also said it is often preferable to just refer to “housing” in a community as opposed to “affordable housing” due to the negative connotations surrounding the topic.
Supporters of housing outnumber opponents, but opponents are more likely to contact local elected officials and speak out, making it even more important for supporters to be visible and vocal in the housing debate.
Durham announced IFA will be rolling out a communications campaign called Welcome Home Iowa to share these themes statewide in the months ahead.
To learn more about IFA’s research on housing messaging, download Director Durham’s presentation slides: