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Public Policy Issue Forum on Affordable Housing

Affordable Housing Forum

September 10, 2021

The Greater Des Moines Partnership , along with Capital Crossroads and the Young Professionals Connection (YPC) hosted a hybrid Public Policy Issue Forum on Affordable Housing on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. During the event, we discussed projects that are reimagining affordable housing development and inspiring new connections among communities and its residents. For this important discussion I was joined by:

Policies + Strategies to Expand Housing Options

Lynch discussed the importance of intention and purpose surrounding the issue of affordable housing. The community must understand its population (income levels, ages, family sizes, ethnicities, etc.), housing inventory (single-family versus multi-family, sizes of housing units, etc.) and the jobs within the community (types of jobs, wages, etc.) in order to combat housing issues. Creating housing near job centers to reduce transportation costs for workers should be a priority. What incentives are available for this issue? The City of Des Moines is beginning to negotiate for certain incentives and lower rent rates within multi-housing developments, yet there are challenges with federal and state dollars in that these incentives are not always tailored to the context.

Supply Chain Disruptions Due to the Pandemic

Regardless of the type of housing being built, lumber prices will continue to be a challenge. Affordable, or attainable housing, will be affected by higher costs. The pandemic has helped raise awareness on many things, including uneven distribution, which filters into housing. Saddoris said that we need to lean into the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan money is a huge opportunity to do something long-term, or generational, that will outlive us. Advocates need to be having conversations on addressing housing insecurity in creative ways.

Meeting the Needs of DSM Families

In the early 60s, there were two failed referendums for public housing in Greater Des Moines (DSM). For reasons unknown today, voters determined they didn’t need or want public housing in our community. Fifty years later access to affordable housing is at the top of our agenda. As more housing is built in DSM, the region must also address school capacity issues to ensure housing is built where it’s needed and where there is access to educational opportunity. There is a disconnect between workforce development and housing development. There is a -15% job availability in the urban core and a +9% job availability in the suburbs, with little housing development in the core and limited affordable housing in the suburbs? The workforce housing study is data rich and highlights the need for affordable housing in the region’s job centers. With the recent launch of Here we Grow — municipalities will work to tackle the following goals identified in the regional housing plan:

  1. Increase Housing Near Jobs
  2. Establish Housing Mix That Reflects Job Mix
  3. Create Equitable Housing Opportunities

Community Best Practices

Henning talked about intentional best practices, including funding through bonding efforts to create resources for affordable housing and providing opportunities through zoning allowing for developers to build all types of units.

Watch the entire Aug. 17 webinar below:


Read more about the Public Policy Issue Forum on Broadband, Public Policy Issue Forum on Child Care and Public Policy Issue Forum on Placemaking. Future forums include the following:

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Teree Caldwell-Johnson

Teree Caldwell-Johnson is CEO of Oakridge Neighborhood, a current member of the Des Moines School Board, serving on several Greater Des Moines (DSM) nonprofit boards and a mentor with the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute's Community Connect program.