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Why is this Important?

Quality, affordable housing is a key element of a strong and secure Iowa.   Thomas Vilsack

Housing, homelessness and transportation are grouped together as one priority because they all connect to help individuals and families to live and work in our community. When families can’t pay for housing, they often enter into a vicious cycle of poverty that makes it all but impossible to build a better life and may end up without a home. The housing priority includes securing more low income, affordable housing, and reducing homelessness and closely aligns with the Housing Tomorrow plan. In the future, Housing Tomorrow will act as a tool to help our region’s jurisdictions address housing challenges as they may arise.

Transportation is also connected because affordable housing is often not located near jobs or available at the times when public transportation is needed. A cost effective method of transportation is crucial to get people from home to work and back so they can earn enough to get out of poverty. 

 

Why this is important to our work and community

 

Housing

Housing is a human right, and a fundamental human need. Along with food and water, it is one of the core necessities of human life. And though it’s most important purpose is to provide shelter, housing is a lot more than a place to rest your head. Experts from various fields recognize that safe, stable, and affordable housing is essential to our region’s health, education and economic development. These issues are more interconnected than it may seem at first glance. Because it is such a fundamental part of life, housing is often the connecting thread between them. Housing is truly the foundation upon which our region’s high quality of life is built.

 

When households pay too much for housing, they often enter into a vicious cycle of poverty that makes it all but impossible to build a better life. To pay their rent, families make sacrifices on basic necessities like food and health care. Without access to health care, they may be too sick to work, or their children may miss school. Children often have to change schools as their parents move from place to place, searching for housing they can afford. Sometimes they run out of options, and end up sleeping on friends’ couches or in a shelter. Missing school and moving between schools hurts children’s grades, keeping them from reaching their educational goals and hindering their ability to get the skilled jobs needed to support our local economy.

 

If we hope to build a region where every resident can live a healthy life and receive a quality education, where jobs and qualified workers are plentiful and the environment is protected, we must address housing. Ensuring that all of our region’s households have access to affordable housing will create a brighter future for the next generation of central Iowans. Affordable housing, for this plan will use the HUD (U.S. Housing and Urban Development) definition. The monthly rent or mortgage payment of an “affordable” home should cost a household less than 30% of their gross monthly income. If a household is spending more than this amount, they are living in an unaffordable unit.

(p.2, Housing Tomorrow Choices for a Greener Greater Des Moines, April 2015).More information & Graphics: http://www.pchtf.org/rahp/

Homelessness is a strong indicator of the accessibility and affordability of housing in a community. Centralized Intake helps individuals and families experiencing homelessness or those who are near homelessness, by connecting them to the right resources in the most timely and efficient way.  This helps the community see the whole picture and clients access appropriate resources, provides direct help for individuals and families (clients) by connecting them to the right resources in the most timely and efficient way.  Staff triage each client (situation, income, housing options), clients complete a VI-SPDAT (nationally-standardized assessment tool) to determine who most needs housing based on vulnerability. Clients are then referred to the appropriate housing and services. This reduces the steps a client must take to get the help they need.

When considering housing costs, people often think only of rent or mortgage payments. In reality, though, that’s only half of the picture. Consideration must be given to the costs associated with where housing is located. Housing and transportation are closely linked. In 2008, the Center for Neighborhood Technology introduced its H+T Affordability Index “that measures the true affordability of housing choices by factoring in both housing and transportation costs in a neighborhood.” The formula for determining affordability is:

 

H+T Affordability Index = Housing Costs + Transportation Costs

                                                                           Income

 

Traditionally, households spending more than 30% of their income on housing fall into a “cost burdened” category. Using these criteria, 76% of US neighborhoods are “affordable.” Applying this classification to Greater Des Moines shows that most areas fall into the “affordable” classification. This categorization doesn’t take into account transportation costs as a result of housing. The H+T Affordability Index, in contrast, defines “affordable as a household that spends less than 45% of its income on housing and transportation. Using this approach, the number of affordable neighborhoods in the country drops to 28%, and the number of cost burdened households in Greater Des Moines increases dramatically.

Housing Tomorrow

Over the next year, the Polk County Housing Trust Fund (PCHTF) plans to engage stakeholders throughout the region in a discussion of affordable housing as part of Housing Tomorrow, our first regional plan for housing. The plan will seek to address the concentration of traditional affordable housing options, encourage development near nodes and along transit corridors, and promote a diverse housing stock that will fit the needs of our diversifying population and allow our neighbors to age in place. The Housing/Transportation priority closely aligns with the Housing Tomorrow plan.

The process will engage key stakeholders including government agencies, developers, nonprofits, economic development officials, social service providers, housing agencies, and other interested parties through the creation of a steering committee. The planning process will also include numerous opportunities for public engagement through open meetings and surveys distributed throughout the region. Housing Tomorrow will also focus on engaging minority and low-income communities who are often difficult to reach in planning processes by working with local advocacy groups and holding meetings in low-income neighborhoods.

When finished, Housing Tomorrow will act as a tool to help our region’s jurisdictions address housing challenges as they may arise. This nonbinding plan will offer policy recommendations and specific action steps to encourage the preservation and development of affordable housing options and to help low-income families overcome barriers to stable housing. This collaborative effort will bring new parties to the table to engage in a conversation about affordable housing that will raise awareness of our community’s needs and work to see them addressed in an equitable manner.

Housing Tomorrow has been made possible by generous contributions from the Community Foundation of Greater Des MoinesUnited Way of Central Iowa, and Polk County.

More information & Graphics: http://www.thetomorrowplan.com/

Transportation

Public transportation in the United States is a crucial part of the solution to the nation’s economic, energy, and environmental challenges - helping to bring a better quality of life. Every segment of American society - individuals, families, communities, and businesses - benefits from public transportation. People need transportation to get to work so that they can get out of poverty; for affordable housing a distance from work and to support health (groceries, medical appointments, recreation, gym membership, etc.). Transportation is about connections.

 

Housing affordable to people with low-income is largely within the City of Des Moines, and new development which housing employment at low wages is mainly outside the City of Des Moines. Public transportation does not run to all the new development areas close to low wage jobs or at all hours when people need to get to and from those jobs.  A cost effective method of transportation is needed to address this issue.

See: http://www.thetomorrowplan.com/ & https://www.ridedart.com/media/dart-forward-2035-plan

With consideration to the connection between housing and transportation, the following statements capture the importance of meeting these needs as a step toward moving out of poverty:

  • Housing is a human right, and a fundamental need.
  • Experts from various fields recognize that safe, stable, and affordable housing is essential to our region’s health, education and economic development.
  • When people have safe and affordable housing they can focus on employment, education, job training and health.
  • A household is affordable if it spends less than 45% of its income on housing and transportation.
  • People want to connect with people, both like and different from them, and mixed use housing provides a vehicle for these connections.
  • People have hope, even after years of believing that they would ever get off of the street.  When they see others who lived on the street for years move into safe, stable housing, they understand that it is possible for them, too.  And when people have a reason to hope, they accomplish things no one thought possible. (http://usich.gov/media_center/featured_articles/housing-first-yields-high-success-and-creates-real-hope)
  • Homelessness has a profound impact on children’s health and education, as well as parents’ abilities to find a job and stay employed. Homeless children have twice the rate of emotional and behavioral issues—including anxiety, depression, and withdrawal. (http://www.gatesfoundation.org/What-We-Do/US-Program/Washington-State/Homelessness-and-Family-Stability)
  • A community can be stabilized by eliminating homelessness. Community stability can mean many different things; it is used here to refer to those physical, economic or social features of the community that are associated with the preservation and potential increase in the value of a property-owner’s investment in a neighborhood. - See more at: http://www.communityprogress.net/increasing-neighborhood-stability-pages-240.php#sthash.u0lXgeMy.dpuf