The Polk County Housing Trust Fund (PCHTF) has announced its first three completed agreements for affordable housing investment using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds allocated to PCHTF by the Polk County Board of Supervisors. These agreements, which were completed in the 4th quarter of 2022, total $5.3 million that will support 102 units of affordable housing at or below 60% of the area median income at properties that offer a total of 176 housing units.
Polk County Board of Supervisors chair Tom Hockensmith said, “Affordable housing has been an issue in our community for many years and the Board of Supervisors recognized a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use federal funds to make substantial investments in affordable housing."
"We know that there is a lot of work to do to keep housing affordable for our working families and this is just one of many investments that Polk County has made,” Hockensmith added.
Polk County’s landmark $15+ million allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds announced in April 2022 includes $12 million for housing development including for those projects described here. The county also set aside $3 million to create a housing revolving loan fund, and $150,000 for a homeless advocates pilot program.
Eric Burmeister, executive director of the Polk County Housing Trust Fund, noted that in addition to being PCHTF’s largest annual funder, Polk County’s government has led the way throughout pandemic emergency response. The County provided critical early support to establish a local emergency rental assistance program as the pandemic set in and is investing in long-term housing security now as the pandemic emergency recedes.
“This is still a difficult time for housing development as costs have risen quickly and the need for affordable options is greater than ever. Once again, the Polk County Supervisors stepped up to take a leadership role and we are appreciative that the development community is also stepping up with solutions that make the most of this unique moment,” Burmeister said.
Projects receiving funds will provide housing to some of the community’s most vulnerable populations who struggle to find a quality place to live. This includes seniors on fixed incomes, larger households who need more space at an attainable price, and people who need an affordable home near jobs with quality transit access.
The Grand Trees Apartments, Tree House Partners, LLC: $511,000
The Grand Trees Apartments consists of three 1923 apartment buildings at 2225, 2305, and 2315 Grand Avenue that will feature 93 studio, one- and two- bedroom apartments. These funds will ensure a total of 10 of the apartments are held affordable for households earning at or under 30% of the area median income, preserving an important affordability resource near many job opportunities on Ingersoll Avenue. An economic development agreement with the City of Des Moines will provide additional income-restricted units at higher income levels. Completion of renovations is expected this spring.
Johnston Crossing II, Woda Cooper Companies, Inc: $940,000
Johnston Crossing II will offer affordable housing for people age 55+ at 5625 NW Johnston Drive in Johnston. It will be of similar design to the recently completed Johnston Crossing I which is next door. Johnston Crossing II will feature 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments, 45 of which will have income restrictions to ensure affordability. Pre-leasing is planned for late fall 2023.
Spire Des Moines Portfolio, Spire Property Management: $3.86 million
Supports the acquisition of 33 single family homes by Spire Property Management located in several Des Moines neighborhoods. This group of homes will help meet the need for quality affordable homes for larger families which can be difficult to find. The homes range from 3 to 7 bedrooms; nearly half have 5 bedrooms. Homes will be affordable to households earning at or below 40% of the area median income.
Funds in this program are awarded through a competitive application process in which applications are reviewed by the Polk County Housing Trust Fund’s development committee and approved by its board of directors. PCHTF held a first round of applications in July of 2022, a second round of applications in September, and last week gathered a third round of applications which will be considered by its board of directors in February. Applications will be accepted in successive rounds until all funds are exhausted.
Investments from this fund are available to support rental housing affordable to people earning under 60% of the area median income, currently $59,100 for a family of four. The Trust Fund is placing additional prioritization on serving extremely low-income households earning at or under 30% of area median income, or $29,550 for a family of four. These income guidelines vary by number of people in the household and are updated annually by the federal government.
“The number of housing units we ultimately need in the region affordable to those whose incomes range from $20-25,000/year ultimately runs into the thousands, so even following these important, targeted investments, the need for housing solutions will remain great,” Burmeister said. Indeed, one recent estimate by the National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates Polk County is short about 11,635 rental units that are both affordable and available for people whose incomes fall under 30% of area median income.
PCHTF will continue to report its progress on finalizing funding agreements at least quarterly to Polk County and the public until the fund is fully expended.